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Lost in a galaxy of information: Unlocking the value of your organisation's information

The volume of information we have access to in our day to day activities is growing exponentially - which should be good. But the value of the information is decreasing - because we can’t find it when we need it! The time and effort involved in locating the correct or current version of information has become too costly (25% of staff time, representing 10% of enterprise costs [source: Butler Group]).

This has led to all sorts of formal and informal repositories of information - each person trusting their own sources of information - scattered across physical locations - with the negative consequences of duplication, or worse - reconstruction. As we suffer from this lack of value today and are trying to get ourselves out of this galaxy of scattered information, we are trying to cope with, and manage this increase in volume and types of information, within organisations and between organisations. The problem is getting worse, very quickly.

Search engines have promised to help us locate or find information easily and quickly regardless of where this information is located. However we soon realise that finding information is only half the battle won. We require relevancy and accuracy within the context of roles and business domains for this information for it to be meaningful to us and have real value to the organisation.

We know from experience and history that the best way for information to have value is when we can identify and describe the information. The use of metadata has been around for decades and is still the best way to identify and classify information. However the challenge of applying such an information taxonomy and governance process on an already exponential and unmanageable barrage of information is very great and potentially very expensive.

How can we have the best of both worlds, where we have information governance for creating and managing new information and at the same time have a way of easily finding and cataloguing the information already out there?

We turn again to search technologies to assist us in automatically and dynamically applying our classification rules while refining those rules with every iteration to ensure that existing and future content adhere to, in a semi-automated fashion, the organisation’s taxonomy and information governance.

Imagine how this may work for your organisation.

The cost of manually finding and describing your information would require a small army of people reading, analysing and suggesting metadata structures that will adequately describe the documents. And once classified and described, to move it to another repository with its own limited or proprietary search capabilities. Clearly just taking the brute force approach to getting each and every document into your document management system may take years, while information and media types continue to pour in from all corners of the organisation.

We may have to accept the fact that documents of all types (reports, spreadsheets, presentations, data, videos, audio, blogs, memos, emails, photos, etc.) are created every day, placed in locations and systems regardless of our stringent information governance enforcements or best intentions.

What if you could use search technologies to assist you in finding the correct information and also in training the search technology on how to ascribe metadata to such information based on your organisational and business context? How wonderful would it be when you don’t have to care about taxonomy because your search technology is smarter than just a keyword search? It semantically understands the context, relevancy and meaning of the information and semi-automatically describes your content with contextually correct metadata.

Over time, as information continues to increase and sources becomes more dispersed and varied, these search technologies continue to be refined and help describe new information coming into the organisation.

Imagine now that you not only have relevant information that you can search on and find, but have it adhere to the information taxonomy that grows with the organisation regardless of content media, location or relevance at the time of its creation.

Imagine that search engine technologies become more intelligent, within the context of your organisation, to unlock the value of all your information. You could then trust the search to find the correct answer in the shortest possible way. Imagine that over time the issue is not how much information or where such information is located or even if the information has been described within your organisational information taxonomy, because your search engine technology has given you a platform that you can use to train exactly how you want your information governance policy to be enforced without reliance on more people or processes.

Imagine that we can do all of this today (and we can). How much more value would it add to your organisation?

Full presentation slides of the recent Intergen Twilight Seminar, Unlocking the Value of Your Information, can be found here.

Posted by: Steve Lapwood, Senior Management Consultant | 12 April 2010

Tags: Information Management, Search Technologies

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