Knowledge Musings

Musings about knowledge management as I go about my daily life

Friday, March 21, 2008

Putting the I back in IT

Ever since knowledge management took off, organisations have looked to IT to provide a 'silver bullet'. All along I've stressed the need to put back the I (Information) into IT. Now a recent report from TFPL and Cap Gemini (see the Information Opportuntity Report) says the same thing in a slightly different way. They want to put the I back into CIO (Chief Information Officer) "or else companies will suffer".

Their key point is that "the information culture is broken", "information management is poor" and "by not sharing information, organisations are suffering financial loss". One of the reasons, they say, is that more money gets thrown into the technology rather than working out what to do with the information.

I recall at least of couple of past assignments that I have labelled 'rescue missions'. Some persuasive enterprise solutions salesperson has sold a perfectly good piece of software, often with many 'bells and whistles', more than most users can take advantage of. Then as roll-out approaches, there is this stark realisation that too little attention has been given to such things as:
  • how do our users actually work; how does it fit into the way they do their job?
  • who is responsible for verifying and maintaining the quality of this information?
  • how should it be characterised; what metadata should be used to describe it?
  • what is the publishing process: what rules are there for checking before publication?
  • how do users find the authoritative, most up to date version?
Of course, IT vendors will say that the technology can take many of these decisions out of the users hands, with auto-tagging of content with metadata and built-in workflow. However, as a recent case study of Christian Aid's intranet indicated, the last thing you want to do is "automate a mess".

Every time you even think about implementing a new solution, why don't you think carefully through all the information process issues, the tasks, decisions and business processes that the information informs, but above all the hapless user who is often not consulted until a technical decision has been made.

It behoves anyone who has 'information' in their title, whether they are a technical guru or not, to remember the words of business executive William Pollard: "Information is a source of learning. But unless it is organized, processed, and available to the right people in a format for decision making, it is a burden, not a benefit."

So make sure that your technologists remember to put the I back into IT.



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