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Information management needs to evolve

Workplace processes are constantly evolving these days, and information management (IM) is no exception. Across all business lines and industries, digital transformation is pushing organisations to move away from physical filing systems to cloud-based digital solutions, according to Alyssa Blackburn, information strategy manager at AvePoint.

"Before companies can reap the benefits of this new, digitized IM model, information practitioners need to rethink the way they manage and safeguard data without impeding end users’ day-to-day tasks," she told iTWire in an interview.

Blackburn said there was no denying that leveraging new IM tools while addressing employee expectations could be difficult.

"But when armed with the right policies for migration, management, accessibility, and compliance, organisations can embrace a modern approach to information management,” she added.

Blackburn spoke in detail about how organisations should handle IM processes in a changing world and what steps should be taken to create optimal information management:

Avepoint Blackburn

How can organisations learn from the past to implement successful information management processes?

With the evolution of technology in both work and personal lives, it is inevitable that we’ll eventually move away from traditional habits, processes, and terminology. A good example of this is a few years ago when my four-year-old daughter came across an old telephone in our home. She immediately asked what all of the numbers on the front meant. Clearly, a landline telephone was a foreign concept to her as someone who has grown up in the age of the smartphone.

The same can be said for the workplace. I was recently explaining what a physical records repository looked like to some younger coworkers who have never worked with traditional physical files and likely never will. The way millennials, for example, understand how IM processes work shows a difference in experience that organizations must navigate to be successful.

What does today’s information management environment look like?

Technology has changed almost every aspect of life. Yet, organizations are still trying to make a physical IM model work for the digital world. Effectively and securely managing information should be a top priority for any organisation.

Too many organisations remain stuck in their ways and are hesitant to transition from the “old school” physical environment for information management. While these organisations might be using electronic information, most haven’t modernised their processes. There are a variety of processes that have been adapted from a physical records model and put into a digital environment.

Having access to accurate, relevant, and timely data is critical to ensuring productivity and efficiency. Organisations that excel here are often those with end users who abide by policies and requirements when creating, capturing, and using business information – an area where many organisations are still trailing behind. Unfortunately, many companies have yet to make this an intuitive process for the average end user.

Can you provide an example of a process that has been adapted from physical records and forced into an electronic environment?

An example of this is asking an employee to complete a formal record declaration process or requiring a traditional business classification scheme. A more consumer-friendly example is the traditional street map. Though maps were valuable resources for many years, they have since been replaced by technology and smartphones. When the GPS first came out, the tool wasn’t only trying to replicate a paper map in digital form. Instead, the GPS revolutionised the map by building upon its capabilities through technology.

With the rise of smartphones, the standalone GPS is nearly non-existent today – a shift that stems from increased user needs and demands, which pushed GPS technology to grow and adapt. This same principle applies to information management; information practitioners must change their mindset when it comes to managing information to maximise their value to the organisation.

What steps should organisations take to adjust their approach to information management?

I recommend organisations follow a few key steps when adopting a modern approach to information management, including:

  • Leverage a risk-based approach – Since today’s organisations produce an obscene amount of data and information, it is nearly impossible to manage everything individually. With a risk-based approach, information managers can identify highly valuable information in a more efficient manner. Nearly 80% of an information manager’s time and energy should be devoted to managing this type of information; all other information shouldn’t require as thorough maintenance and oversight. Instead, it can be managed and grouped more holistically. This risk-based approach must align with underlying business needs, the organisation’s objectives, and strategic value.
  • Ditch confusing terminology – It’s important to keep in mind that the average end user doesn’t understand or care about the differences between a record and document. Terminology like document, file, and folder have different definitions for different people, which means it is essential to cater to end users’ baseline knowledge rather than forcing outdated or irrelevant terminology upon them.
  • Automate, automate, and automate again traditional, time-consuming manual processes – Traditional records management tasks consume an unnecessary an inordinate amount of time, energy, and resources. Information managers should leverage new automation technology to remove this burden. To start, organizations should seek out ways to automate classification. For instance, if a formal record declaration process is required, organisations can use technology to automate this task instead of relying on end users to complete each action item.

Aside from following these steps, information managers should also ask: Do the processes we require end users to comply with, align with the way our organisation works and our long-term strategic initiatives? Or have the processes become stagnant in the digital workplace? Taking an honest look at current processes can help organisations create seamless, user-friendly IM practices for the new way of working rather than the workplace of the 1980s or 1990s.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!