Modern organizations have armies of people trained in producing and publishing information, but there is a huge and growing lack of people who are skilled at organizing, analyzing and prioritizing it.
The Christmas 2009 airline-bombing attempt in the USA showed what can happen when there is too much information and too little skilled analysis. "It's clear now that there were multiple signs in recent months that Abdulmutallab was a potential risk," Bruce Crumley wrote for TIME in January 2010, "but they were simply lost in the unmanageable flood of information the U.S. intelligence and security agencies are designed to produce."
As President Obama stated, "This was not a failure to collect intelligence, [but] a failure to integrate and understand the intelligence that we already had." U.S. authorities are forced to sort through a massive flood of intelligence on a daily basis. "Connecting the dots becomes more difficult when multiple streams of intelligence empty into several different lakes," the TIME article pointed out.
As one spy official put it, "Basic details can now get overlooked as surveillance becomes more technical and computerized and people wait for a warning beep to sound." Basic details such as the fact that the would-be bomber paid cash for a one-way ticket, and that he didn't check in any bags.
Ours is the era of the information Big Bang. I think it's an absolutely wonderful time to be alive. Information has been whipped away from the grasp of the elites and delivered into the hands of the masses. Information is power and power has been distributed.
However, as with any explosive event there are challenges that need to be faced. I thought I'd be used to it by now but I am still often stunned at how badly most organizations manage their websites.
Take, for example, the web 'management' approach called distributed publishing. The theory was: buy the tool, train people to use it and watch them go. What happened? Each division or department that the publishing tool was distributed to sought to publish to the website with the absolute minimum resource input. If ever there was a disastrous non-strategy it is distributed publishing. It led to website junkyards full of vanity publishing and out of date garbage.
The Web is important. The Web is very important. For an increasing number of organizations, the Web is critical to success. We need to seriously raise the standard. Anybody can put up a document. It requires precious little skill to write boring, vain, unreadable, organization-centric content.
It takes a whole other level of skills:
- To reject such organization-centric content.
- To commission content that will help customers complete top tasks.
- To organize top-task content in a way that will make it easy to be found and to make sure that tiny task content does not disrupt searches for top task content.
- To review and remove out of date content.
- To connect the right dots (to link well).
There is no greater skill a web professional needs to develop than the ability to create quality links. Many websites do not need more publishing. Rather, they need more linking of content in appropriate task journeys. Linking is a complex skill because it requires you to see the task through your customer's eyes.