Tuesday Feb 05, 2013

The Refrigerator of Knowledge

Quite a few years ago, perhaps more than I care to remember, a colleague described how she thought that a content management repository was like a refrigerator.  At first, I did not follow where she was taking this analogy but I soon got it and it has stuck with me to this day.  Since we are discussing content management and how to get the most from your information under management, I thought it worth sharing today...

If we think of the food we buy at home as being like the content and documents we create at work, we would probably all agree that they both have a value and that they both require an appropriate level of care.  There are extremes in both cases.  Skittles, for example, have almost no value (and can scarcely be considered food) but they also require almost no care.  You could leave a package on the floor for 20 years and they would be unchanged when you got back.  On the other extreme, a food of much more value, say Bluefin Tuna, needs extra care and protection in order for its value to be maintained.  In the same way, we have different types of information in our work environment.  The contract documents being negotiated require extreme care and safety controls to be in place, while the document announcing the upcoming ice cream party next Friday requires no care and can safely be discarded Friday night.  To take proper care of the high-value information, access must be controlled, version tracking and auditing must be in place and information governance regulations must be adhered to in most industries.

But the real value in your content is not just in the creation, it's in how well you utilize it.  It's the same with food.  You can go to the gourmet store, spend quite a bit of money to get the freshest ingredients but if you do not put them to good use, it is a complete waste of time and effort.  Same with your business content in all its forms.  Scanned documents and forms that come in from customers, collateral developed by marketing, documentation on your new product, partner contracts, sales quotes, the list of potentially valuable information in your company is endless.  But how well is that information put to use?  Securing it in a safe place is not enough, it's how you integrate it within critical business processes and make it readily available to the right people at the right time that defines what value you realize.  It's the same with the food that you spent all that money on.  If you simply secure it in your fridge and never open the fridge again because security is of overriding importance, the food will rot, age and go to waste.  Information not properly used is not worth gathering or creating in the first place. 

One last thought related to this analogy.  Have you ever been to a friends house and opened up their fridge to find a complete mess of mysterious food packages, plastic bags of leftovers - all just crammed in there to be gone through later?  Besides being disgusting, you will never find what you are looking for.  In fact you are likely to give up and drive to the store to buy something new before you will spend the time searching through unlabeled wads of aluminum foil that contain only who-knows-what.  On the other hand, when you open up a clean, well-organized refrigerator, you can find what you are looking for right away and have additional confidence that the leftovers you retrieve have not been lurking in there since the Nixon administration. Information management is similar in that when it is well-organized and easily accessible, users can get just what they need, when they need it and know that is the freshest, most up-to-date information.

So how organized is your company refrigerator, um, i mean content management system?  Can your employees, management, business partners find what they need when they need it?  Are you getting the most value by having information readily available within your important business processes?  If not, it's time to rethink how you use information, how you store it and of course, how to properly and securely dispose of the low-value information.  As you think more about the real value of your content and how strategic it is, be sure also to download a copy of our whitepaper on the topic. From Unstructured to Strategic: How Content Management Is Driving Strategic Initiatives

Next time you open up a friends refrigerator, you will now think about content management.  You're welcome. 


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