As an IT process and governance consultant, I see a large number of software tools for managing knowledge, information, and data. The choices between vendors and in-house development options seem endless. Evaluation can be challenging because descriptions of purpose, use, and comparative approach are often not clear, standardized, or based on research.

Recently I heard a well-known software vendor describe one of its popular and respected products as being able to deliver far beyond its designed capabilities of content tracking and retrieval across multiple platforms. It was described as also able toaccelerate, automate, and maintain compliance with core business processes.” There was no mention of the significant management work required to make this happen. Most organizations are not even close to the needed level of defined processes, policies, measurements, and organizational roles.

I also recently heard a talented technical manager describe how he developed a taxonomy for his specialty, but he was unaware of existing taxonomy tools, standards, or related taxonomies with which his proprietary tool needs to interoperate for long-term success.

I am part of the IT community where management and historical perspectives are not always adequately evaluated before a technical solution is considered. Consequently, I have seen far too many graveyards of expensive tools that never met their potential and were discarded.

My heart goes out to those who feel overwhelmed by a need to do “something” with increasing numbers of content types, formats, devices, and security or litigation risks. Growing amounts of content, vaguely written regulations and laws, and nebulous but formidable concepts like “Big Data,”  “The Cloud, ” and “Dark Data,” add additional complexity. It is understandable why an easy one-tool solution is attractive. Nevertheless, it is not productive or necessary to keep buying more expensive tools that will only be discarded. There are better ways of addressing the problems.

Establish Governance and Management Processes First

Establishing basic governance and management processes for knowledge, information, and data is essential for informed decisions about tool purchase, configuration, coordination, and ongoing content viability and validity. The seemingly simpler choice of following what a tool vendor suggests for processes usually complicates the enterprise business environment. Designers of general and industry tools have no way of knowing specific business details or organization strengths, which are often competitive advantages.

Use What is Already Known

Having “too much information” is not new. Humans have survived by processing large amounts of information in the subconscious brain while concentrating the conscious mind on the most pressing external business. Libraries were begun as shared repositories and the beginnings of thought about managing “too much information” by around 2,500 BC.

Marjorie M.K. Hlava, President, Access Innovations, states in a May 27, 2013, TaxoDiary blog post, “We librarians and information specialists get to view anarchy in the universe more often than other people do. And we are the ones who have the job of putting the universe into some sort of order. With a thousand points of knowledge…”

What has been learned by facing “a thousand points of knowledge” head-on applies to the terabytes, exabytes, zettabytes, and yottabytes we now face. They all seemed boundless when first encountered, but can be bounded with thoughtful localization and organization.

During my earlier career as a corporate librarian and records manager, I learned information science models that combined thousands of years of thought with current research and technology for addressing “too much information.” A few examples paired with initial action steps follow:

Information is best understood and used by its primary users

   Define core organizational products, areas of expertise, and risks. Focus and fund knowledge, information, and
data work in these important areas.

– Information is a definable, manageable asset

   Define the knowledge, information, and data assets needed to produce core products and maintain expertise,
dividing the assets into manageable, coordinated groups.

– Managed metadata can describe information so that it can be found and/or linked

– Controlled, agreed vocabularies in areas of specialty can greatly enhance retrieval

   Define and assign organizational entities and roles to make and maintain the asset definitions, decision rights,
priorities, growth needs, agreed metadata schemas and vocabularies, measurements and reports.

– Information does not follow the rules of thermodynamics – it grows when it is used

   Plan for growth, change, coordination and interoperability by using existing standards and making use of what is
already known.

Watch future blog postings for more details on this subject.

Judith Gerber (guest blogger)
JGG Enterprises

Sponsored by Access Innovations, the world leader in taxonomies, metadata, and semantic enrichment to make your content findable.