The rise of Information Management as a business priority seems inexorable. But how do you go about taming the beast?

Defining Information Management

The bigger your business, the more data sources (emails, documents, databases, websites), data stores (servers, hard drives, smartphones), departments (sales, admin, creative, legal) and offices you will find information spread across.

Wrangling all that data into a form that makes it accessible, for value-additive analysis, for searchability and, increasingly, for legally-mandated storage comes under the moniker of information management, and is an ever-growing struggle for business.

Information management systems and products come in a variety of forms from the big vendors like HP and IBM to specialist vendors like Index Engines, LabHQ and Bridgeway offering plenty of vertical or niche-specific solutions for legal or consumer data firms.

Best Practices from TIMAF

Information management touches on a range of other topics including web content management, digital asset management, tagging, enterprise content management, eDiscovery, records management and many others.

To get the authoritative version on best practices, you might want to keep a look out for a book from The Information Management Foundation (TIMAF) entitled 'Information Management Best Practices: Volume 1,' which contains 19 best practices based on real-life experiences with a variety of organizations. The first annual guide to making the right decisions when it comes to handling the vast amounts of data in a business is scheduled to be presented on September 16.

Those interested can take a close look at the HarmanEVENT in Utrect, the Netherlands, taking place in October. Ever on the look out for more information, stories and practical experience, there is still a call for more best practices from the publishers, so users can contribute explanations of how they overcame problems or challenges to share with the world.

Rules for the Road

For enterprises there are lots of well-written rules and guidance but smaller companies need to be deploying information management solutions too. At its simplest, these are the rules to follow.

Establish a Framework

Examine your business for relevant information that needs to be managed. Emails between executives or departments heads are vital, emails about company the softball team are not. Tender documents are vital, stationary cupboard stock lists are not. Get input from all departments about what should be kept.

Institute Policies to Capture the Essential Data

Create rules, automated where possible, that capture your data in a central source. Emails can be automatically copied to a server mail folder, documents need to be regularly archived to a central backup and other data types like images or charts need good tagging or metadata to enable them to be found by searching rather than having to manually check each file.

If It Gets Complicated, Invest in a Solution

Manually running information management can waste lots of time. As soon as it becomes a chore, it is probably time to invest in a commercial solution. Find the one that fits your specific needs that pools and archives that data, keeping it searchable and accessible.

While information management may sound daunting, and the amount of data can be scary, sensible rules and strategies can save a lot of wasted effort. Perhaps the golden rule is, the earlier an effective solution is implemented, the more time it will save in the long run. Deploying an inappropriate solution or running it in an ad hoc manner is not a solution.