Should central IT butt out of information management?

A worker’s ability to find information quickly and efficiently is a key element of modern business, delivering advances in productivity, effectiveness and compliance.

Information may be stored in email archives, content systems, social media or potentially anywhere across the enterprise, and it may come in many forms – from office files, PDFs and emails, to tweets, photography, video and sound files.

In AIIM research in 2014, improved search was even stated to be a priority over big data and content analytics for almost three-quarters of the business leaders surveyed. So irrespective of type, location or purpose, a knowledge worker must be able to locate information easily.

>See also: 4 trends reshaping traditional content management

But is the case? The consumerisation of IT has led to heightened expectations of what enterprise technology can deliver, but in terms of information management and enterprise search, I am not convinced the reality is even close to matching that expectation. If people need to locate an old customer email, a presentation from a few years ago or locate a Twitter update, how long would it take them?

Far too long, I would suggest. That’s why organisations have to start looking at information management from the perspective of the knowledge worker, not the requirements of the IT department.

Lose the obsession with ‘control’

I was recently working with an AIIM member on a project and I mentioned a specific cloud file repository we were using for project. My colleague said they couldn’t access the site because the ‘domain was blocked at work’.  An old adage of mine immediately came to mind: the desire of the ‘business’ to get work done by individuals will always trump our desire for organisational ‘control’ of information.

I won’t mention the company the AIIM member worked for, because if truth be told, this kind of stuff occurs all the time, in companies all over the world. And yet so many organisations persist in putting their heads in the sand, and assume that if they wish it so (‘we’ll keep information under control by just blocking the domain’) it will be so.

Our recent ECM Industry Watch provided some interesting data documenting the head in the sand approach most organisations are taking when it comes to thinking about the question of mobile accessibility and the real patterns of how knowledge work is actually done in 2015.

Consider the answers to this question: What progress are you making towards content and process access on mobile devices?  Is it any wonder that user adoption and utilisation of most ECM systems remains a significant problem?

More than half of organisations have mobile access on their radar, with 16% planning for it in the next 12 to 18 months, 18% currently rolling it out, 10% providing it for those that need is, and 11% giving it to most or all of their staff. Only 27% had nothing planned as yet.

A lot of this comes from a miscalculation of the true nature of information risk – calculations that for many organisations are based on the outdated assumption that users have no choice with regards to the tools they use and that we can continue to ‘control’ things the same way they did when all knowledge work was done at a desktop computer, in an office and on equipment owned and issued by central IT casting.

>See also: CEOs and information managers struggle to understand each other, research shows

All about the user

The reality is that this ‘control’ has gone forever. Organisations instead need to think about the question of information management and information security from a different vantage point – that of the knowledge worker.

Because to be sustainable in an era of consumerisation and digital disruption, a strategy must answer two questions for knowledge workers: Where do I put my ‘stuff’ so that it is secure, shareable and searchable so that my organisation can accomplish its goals? And where do I put my ‘stuff’ so that it works the way I work and is useful to me in getting my job done?

Until we recalibrate our strategies to deal with both these questions, we will struggle to achieve a true strategy to effectively manage our information assets.

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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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