Where do you like to hide your information?

Good morning and welcome to Monday...

Here in the States, this is the day to recover from whatever Super Bowl festivities you might have had last night. While I personally wish my Patriots had been playing the Niners, there is always next year.  But that same approach can get you in trouble when it comes to how your organization stores and provides access to information.  The idea that you will "get to it next year" can end up costing you a lot of time, money and angst this year.

I recently had a little Q&A with Bryant Duhon from AIIM about managing information.  We are planning for the upcoming AIIM show in New Orleans (http://www.aiimconference.com) and Oracle is pleased to be a platinum sponsor of the event.  We hit on a topic that has been written about before but still remains a vexing problem for companies around the world.  Over time, information that has real value, and needs to be reused or accessed by other colleagues is scattered across different locations and different systems - all of which are usually not connected to one another.  These locations are often referred to as "information silos" because of how they isolate information within individual repositories.

Bryant asked me this question, "We've been talking about information silos in this industry for at least two decades; how do we move from talking to doing?"  It's a good question.  Clearly if it was so easy to do, it would not still be coming up as an issue! Personally, I've come to the conclusion that eliminating information silos is a worthwhile but not always achievable goal for most organizations.  In my response, I stated that eliminating information silos has been the ideal scenario for many years. But the reality is that over time, organizations take on new technologies for information management but are unable or unwilling to wean themselves from the earlier, now legacy, technologies. Eventually a company may find itself with several different content management systems, each still used by one or more departments for a vital business function. Software vendors periodically attempt to address this problem with new technologies that often end up adding additional layers of complexity. IBM Lotus Notes and Microsoft SharePoint are popular examples of collaboration and information sharing tools that instead of delivering on the promise of simplified content management, have over time exacerbated the information silo problem for most organizations.  The Cloud and its many variations, now offers a new take on this decades-old information management challenge, but that's a topic for another day.

So what is an information management professional like yourself supposed to do?  Will you just throw up your hands and allow new repositories to keep popping up like so many groundhogs (slightly apropos this week) across the IT landscape?  Well, that is not such a great idea either.  The more disconnected your approach to information management, the more disconnected your vital business systems become, the more fragmented your operations become and the more inefficient your employees and colleagues will be.  If anyone ever needs to find anything, they will first need to know where to start looking.  Good luck with that!  :)

The approach that often succeeds for many businesses is to take a step back, evaluate the information landscape and consider strategic improvements to how information is shared, utilized, archived and controlled.  Then take positive steps to minimizing the number of repositories in use with an eye toward integrating as many business processes as possible around one "primary" information store.

Since content migration is frequently difficult or prohibitively expensive, the best opportunity for making actual progress on this front is for organizations to standardize on one ideal repository moving forward. When this is not possible, the goal should be to minimize and reduce the number of content repositories for all business applications moving forward. Using application integration frameworks and connectors, this new go-forward repository must be leveraged within the context of as many business processes as possible – which means that finding the right information management system that aligns with your overall business strategy should be one of the leading selection criteria.

Stopping the creation of new information silos is job one. Then over time, business processes and applications can be updated to take advantage of this new repository and legacy systems can be put into maintenance mode where older information is still accessible but no new content is being added. This takes time, proper planning, and a firm hand at the wheel that helps minimize distractions created by the latest shiny new technology in order to drive information management costs down over time.  If you can spare 30 minutes or so, I recommend you take a look at a webcast we did here at Oracle about ways to think about consolidation and the rationale (cost savings!!) for doing so.  Click here to register and watch it immediately.

You can read the rest of our conversation on the AIIM blog, here: http://www.aiim.org/community/blogs/expert/ECM-One-Repository-and-the-Key-Role-of-Classification. As always, we welcome your comments, suggestions, ideas and feedback here on the WebCenter blog.  If I don't hear from you here, I hope to see you at the AIIM Conference in New Orleans next month!


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