Information chaos vs. information opportunity

Without question we are living in a time of two conflicting trends. Information is the world’s new currency, yet there has never been a time in which things have been more chaotic.

We hear constantly that how an organisation manages its information assets is just as important as how it manages its physical, human and financial assets. Industry analyst Gartner talks of us all ‘entering the era of the Digital Industrial Economy’, yet amidst this opportunity many organisations are simply drowning in a sea of content and information.

File servers are overflowing and multiplying, making it difficult for people to find what they need.  Organisations are concerned about the likelihood and implications of information leaks. If information silos in our existing solutions weren’t bad enough, there is now content popping up in new silos in SaaS applications that are beyond the reach of conventional information governance frameworks.

CIOs in trouble

Content and information is arriving at breakneck speed in an ever changing and growing array of formats, which spells trouble for the CIO. There clearly is no more vulnerable place to be right now than CIO at a major organisation – as one newly appointed CIO told me recently, CIO ought to now stand for ‘career Is over’. 

Recent research conducted by the Harvard Business Review, The Economist, Corporate Executive Board, Intel and TNS Global, revealed that almost half of CEOs rate their CIOs negatively in terms of understanding the business and understanding how to apply IT in new ways to the business. Only a quarter of executives felt their CIO was performing above his or her peers.

>See also: The CIO survival kit for 2014

So how did we come to be in this situation? Essentially there are three major disruptors that are simultaneously colliding to transform the world as we know it, namely:

  • 1. Consumerisation – Transforming what users expect from applications. Many business people now assume enterprise solutions can be delivered as seamlessly and as simply as consumer-based solutions are delivered in their private lives. This is neither fair nor straightforward.
  • 2. Mobile and cloud – Leading to an expectation of anywhere, anytime access. Cloud and mobile have altered everything. They change our expectations of where we can work, when we can work, with whom we can work and on what devices we can work. The challenge, of course, in all of this is that mobile and cloud technologies increase the volume, variety, and velocity of information in any business and therefore heighten the potential for information chaos.
  • 3. Changing nature of work – Forcing organisations to think flat and agile, not hierarchical and slow. A flat organisation is one in which many middle-management levels and functions have been eliminated, bringing top management in direct contact with the frontline staff and customers.

This flattening of hierarchies is accelerated by consumerisation and cloud and mobile technologies. While social technologies by themselves will not disrupt rigid hierarchies they can be a rapid accelerator for organisations committed to becoming flatter and more agile, raising levels of information chaos, as older and more rigid information workflows are disrupted, without a clear picture of what will take their place.

>See also: 5 trends that will make or break the CIO in 2014

Turning chaos into opportunity

Managing the information chaos created by the information and content from these disrupters is the major business challenge of the next decade. There are four main questions for any organisation to consider:

  • 1. How do you manage the risk of growing volumes of content? – Firstly, look to your existing policies and seek to align your electronic records practices with those that you already have for physical records. If you do not have an up-to-date information governance policy that is supported across the enterprise, kick-off a project to create one and ensure that new staff and existing staff are fully trained on compliance with the policy. Any information governance policy needs to evolve over time to include new media and new content types such as social content and do not wait until you need an e-discovery process – you may be given a short time limit, so have processes and mechanisms in place.
  • 2. How do you transform content-intensive business processes? – For too long organisations have stuck to the belief that paper is essential in business. It isn’t, so highlight the role that paper-free processes can play in your key business improvement initiatives. Audit where poor access to information is hurting the business – trapped on paper, spread over file shares, locked up in enterprise systems, or simply mobile-unfriendly.  Use this to energise your content management, as the more content you can converge into a single, searchable, mobile-accessible system, the fewer other places you need to go to solve the problem. Consider whether any of your current ECM systems are truly fit for purpose. lf they are limited in core functional areas, are not well matched to your specific industry requirements, or need massive customisation, then consider consolidating around a new, better-suited system.
  • 3. How do you use content to better engage customers, employees and partners? – A key deployment of content is in social channels, both internal and external, and not just meaning marketing or corporate communications. Exactly who within the organisation is responsible for the various types of social interaction needs to be clearly outlined and agreement must be reached with the records management team to categorise which social content should be stored and how. The most popular form of internal social applications is staff communication, such as a company notice board or forum. Guidelines and polices for use must be created and explained to staff and management, while the organisation should explore how the deeper integration of social into enterprise processes can be of benefit.
  • 4. How do you get any business insight out of all the information you are gathering? – This is the billion dollar question and organsiations must first identify exactly what insight it is they are looking for, what single piece of BI or information would transform their business. Having done so, they should they turn to their data – where is it, is it accessible, is it clean? Once that content is under management, check the volume of the data and the speed at which it needs to be analysed – what toolset will this require and do you have the skills to do so?  A best-of-breed tool for a single requirement may be the simplest way to solve a specific problem but will not help others in the business with their needs.  So a productised analytics toolset may be the best answer, particularly if it is well integrated with your existing content and search systems.

Finding opportunity in among the information chaos is a challenging path, but ultimately a rewarding one. By combining content and processes in new and unexpected ways, organisations can dramatically mitigate risk, reduce process costs, better engage with customers, employees and partners, and transform information into insight.


The article was contributed by AIIM president John Mancini

>See also: Analyst eye: The challenges facing the modern-day CIO

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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