Every organisation faces challenges with information management. Whether those challenges stem from how organised (or disorganised) their information is, the sheer number of information items to store, or a lack of time or willingness to share information across departments, these challenges can take a major toll on organisational efficiency.
Here are several pain points that many organisations report when it comes to information challenges.
- Lost documents and assets. Finding and using documentation is at the heart of information management. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, then the cost of creating, storing, and maintaining the information or asset is wasted. What’s worse, users will spend additional time and effort re-creating the documents, files, images, duplicating work. In a flawed information system, there’s no guarantee that this practice will not happen repeatedly.
- Duplication of effort. Even if users manage to find a document related to their work, another challenge might be knowing that the document is the most correct one. When there are two similar documents or documents are created collaboratively, users might be forced to pick a version without full knowledge that the version they are using is the best one. Worse, use of outdated information can lead to “reinventing the wheel” as employees revise old artifacts or create fresh artifacts again.
- Missing related items. Grouping related items can be exceptionally tricky without the right tools and policies. For a few documents, files or images, dropping them into a single folder might suffice. For resources that span multiple projects, departments, and functional areas, this might not work well, especially where there are many files that are related.
- Access to sensitive information. With the need to protect proprietary, sensitive, or other classified information, it can become burdensome to limit access by user, user group, or even at the folder or document level. Policies that are too restrictive will slow the pace of work, but policies that are too loose could be disastrous. Security isn’t optional, and system administrators might spend a lot of time and resources to avoid critical mistakes that expose this information.
- Legacy data going unretired. Cleaning up old information or images that is no longer useful can take a long time, especially in organisations with large amounts of information to maintain. A policy to facilitate identification and retirement of out-of-date information is required.
- Comprehensive reporting on information utilisation. The cost of keeping and maintaining information can get high, and anything to reduce the footprint of that cost while promoting efficiency is extremely valuable to organisations. Without robust reporting, tracing the information needs of users and their use of documents will lead to inefficient decision-making. Good reporting is critical for good decision-making.
Solving the above challenges has tremendous upside for organisations looking to increase information efficiency and speed their business. Reducing friction of information retrieval frees up employee work time. Healthy information practices can go a long way to closing knowledge gaps and reducing the amount of rework.
A great first step is to evaluate the tools that are in use. Can reporting give you insights into what is being used and what isn’t? Do current search tools allow fast retrieval without returning irrelevant results? How is version control and grouping of related documents being done?
The Soutron Information Management System is a great tool to consider to address these challenges. With a flexible, customisable database, robust reporting, and granular security controls, Soutron can provide fast searching with a tremendous increase in accurate, up-to-date information retrieval.
Last, organisations will be well-served to plan out comprehensive policies around their information storage and retrieval and apply then uniformly across the organisation. An upside of a custom retrieval tool is that it can be storage-agnostic while limiting access to sensitive information. Grouping items together across departments while controlling specific information search terms centrally can allow rapid adjustments across the system without creating changes item by item.
With a solid plan and the right tools in place, organisations will see significant return on investment in intentional information management. Employees will be able to work with less friction and information managers will have the tools to administer information use quickly, accurately, and securely.
By John Connolly, MLIS, PMP
John Connolly, PMP is a project manager and librarian with more than 15 years of experience in management in software and special libraries. He has a strong background in cataloguing, metadata generation, information management, and knowledge management.