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Information Management in the 21st Century

By: Codice admin

14 April 2010

Information Management in the 21st Century

This post is from a speech I gave at out our launch function for Codice in January. When I read it over, it seemed like a nice blog post — I decided I like the way I write speeches much better than the way I deliver them!

Thanks so much for taking the time to be with us this evening.

Now, I know the main reason we’re here is to have a drink and catch up with each other and gossip, and I’ll let you get back to that soon. But I just wanted to steal a little of your time to talk about three things that have been bugging me about information management in the 21st century.

When I was a boy, I wanted to be a teacher… or a fireman… and sometimes an astronaut… and a cowboy. Oh, and the guy who reads the news…

Nowadays, I have trouble explaining what it is I do to my kids.

In fact, I overheard my son talking to one of his friends about me the other day:

“My Dad is over there” he pointed. “He’s a computer nerd.”

And I guess that’s true, in some sense — I am. So, he’s right. But let’s face it, job titles aren’t what they used to be. (Nobody ever handed me a business card with “Cowboy” written on it.) And it’s getting harder to explain what we do to our kids.

As people who care about information management this curious fact should be very important to us:

The way people work is changing.

There are less and less menial jobs as a percentage of the global economy. More and more people are creating information for a living. They’re getting paid to think stuff. And enter it into some computer. And then to do stuff with the stuff they’ve thought up and stored. As a result, the amount of information is increasing.

Okay, so this is something that, in our field, we hear all the time — oh help, we’re sucking on the end of a fire hose, information overload! Sales guys love to tell that story. So I’m not going to bore you with it again. But we should all be aware that this trend is occurring — if nothing else, it means a lot more work for us all to do.

The second thing is this:

The mediums that people are using have changed.

The young people who are joining the workforce today are steeped in information.

But the way they see and interact with that information is different — they’ve grown up with Facebook and Twitter and SMS. They think that email is lame. They think that paper is old-fashioned, and harmful to the environment. They are used to being able to reply to any piece of information they see. They share things much more freely, and thrive when given autonomy and freedom — two things that often aren’t exactly the hallmarks of many workplaces.

As Information Managers, we need to understand these mediums and these ways of thinking. We have to be able to manage, preserve, track and harness the content in these systems. They’re not going away.

This brings me to my other third thing:

What people expect from their systems has changed.

When I was at Elementary School, my school librarian was a lady called Mrs Gamble. She must have been about 85, and she was the sweetest thing. (As a fledgling nerd, she and I spent quite a bit of time together.) But there was one way to make her turn absolutely purple — put a book back on the wrong shelf. This heinous crime was punishable by a 10-minute lecture on the Dewey Decimal System, and the importance of proper filing of books so they could be accurately recalled by others.

“Do NOT!” She would shriek, “Ever put a book on the wrong SHELF!”

Thirty years later, Google came along and completely wrecked the world of information management. All of a sudden, in a wholly electronic world, the problem wasn’t that the book was on the wrong shelf. The problem was shelves. (Mrs Gamble would turn in her grave.) Google took a completely different approach to our established concepts of taxonomy, ontology, and organisation. Managing electronic information means that our old physical approaches could be re-thought. People have preconceived notions of how information systems ought to behave, because they use them daily in their lives.


The way people work is changing
The mediums that people are using have changed
What people expect from information systems has changed
Delivering Information Management solutions into this landscape is challenging. But the potential rewards and motivation are greater than ever.

And we would love to be able to help you, if we can.