At the heart of information management lies a tension. 

Information management traditionally focuses on managing the lifecycle of information, in a cradle to grave process. It asks us to treat information as a valuable asset that deserves careful management. 

But like any valuable resource, the act of managing involves both controlling access, while also endeavoring to “get the right information to the right person at the right time.”

For people who use corporate information systems, these two conflicting forces are a source of frustration. While managing and controlling information makes sense from a compliance perspective, more often the control comes from a case of conflicted priorities — the effort and expense of fixing access outweighs the perceived benefits.

But as more and more collaboration and business transactions take place online, our frustration with existing information management approaches will only mount.

There's No Scarcity of Information (or Storage)

The fundamental issue is that current practices and solutions are based on a scarcity mindset — with valuable information in short supply and the associated computing and storage costs are high. But in reality we are witnessing an exponential growth of data creation and consumption, while the cost of computing power and storage is becoming negligible.

The explosion of data will only accelerate further as more and more internet-connected devices come online. But there is no need to worry about information overload — because with the growth in the volume of data we are also gaining access to new technologies to help us intelligently process that information. 

It's time for information management to start shifting from an era of information scarcity to one of abundance.

Flipping Information Management on Its Head

For example, earlier this year, Ming Cheuk, a 24-year-old doctoral student at Auckland Bioengineering Institute in New Zealand, created the prototype of an image recognition bot in only a few days. He did this by leveraging web-based services like Microsoft’s Cognitive Services and Facebook’s Messenger platform

While Cheuk’s bot does not have a particular business application, it hints at the disruptive possibilities that the consumerization of information processing may bring to information management.

New business and operating models, fueled by new information processing platforms, may also disrupt or reshape information management. 

For example, research shows that open data has many economic and social benefits. Government and civic organizations have been earlier adopters of open data, but a few commercial companies have also explored its benefits, such as the UK’s Tesco supermarket chain which offers API access to its grocery database and even has its own IFTTT channel.

Some lawyers have started using distributed revision control and source code management tools, like Github, or platforms inspired by it, like Docracy, to treat legal documents like open source software. 

The Estonian government also offers its e-residents the ability to notarize their marriages, birth certificates, business contracts using blockchain. It claims that the distributed nature of the blockchain ledger makes it more secure than traditional methods. Even musicians want to use blockchain to secure their intellectual property and fair share of royalties.

Collectively these technologies describe a future that has the potential to flip the inward looking, scarcity-based information management approach on its head. 

Get Ready for a Distributed Information Environment

So, is information management ready for a new era fueled by open data, machine learning, decentralized digital ledger systems (like blockchain) and crowdsourcing?

The basic principles of the information management discipline remain the same, but future solutions and our information management architectures need to anticipate and prepare for this new distributed information environment.

Information management will be free from the constraints of human effort to categorize and organize information — on demand superior shared information processing intelligence will change this.

Information management solutions will also need native support for open data and APIs built in to realize the benefits of both sharing and consumption of externally available information. Furthermore, technology like blockchain may eventually protect the security, privacy, identity and transactional non-refutability of intellectual property and contracts, further reducing the need to keep information locked away for its own safety.

The world of information management really is about to be shaken up — but not due to an explosion of data. New technologies and practices will open up new ways for us to manage information differently.