one red gummy bear among many clear gummy bears
Companies today need to think differently about managing and protecting information. PHOTO: Ronile

Like most processes in today’s workplace, the way companies address information management is shifting.

The digital transformation occurring across business lines and industries is moving essential information once stored in file cabinets to digital folders and cloud storage platforms.

And while this has created helpful efficiencies and cost-savings, it also changes the way companies need to think about managing and protecting this information without negatively impacting end users.

The challenge of embracing new information management technologies while also managing employee expectations is difficult to overcome, but with clear processes for the migration and handling of documents, organizations can easily overcome. 

A few things to consider during this process:

Learn From the Past

As generations change and industries evolve, it can be hard to transition from our tried-and-true habits, processes and even terminology.

I’m reminded of a few years back when my four-year-old daughter found an old map in our bookcase and wanted to read it.

I explained the book was used to help me get where I needed to in the car and she laughed at me, saying, “No Mommy, you don’t use a book, the lady tells you where to go!” Of course, she has never known a time before GPS.

Technology advancements are moving quicker than ever and this story replicated itself in the workplace not long ago as I tried to explain to some younger colleagues what a physical records repository looked like.

To them, even the definition of a file was different.

These employees had never worked with traditional physical files, and, in all likelihood, never will. Their level of understanding about how information management processes work would have to reflect this difference in experience.

Integrate Physical and Digital Processes

Technology has done amazing things for humankind and brought so many changes in our everyday lives, sometimes I have to stop and wonder why we’re still trying to fit a physical information management model into a highly digital environment.

The management of information is one of the most important things an organization can do.

Having access to accurate, relevant, and timely data is the cornerstone for an organization’s business efficiency and productivity.

Successful information management depends on end users creating, capturing, and using information according to various organizational requirements. However, so many organizations seem to make this process unintuitive for the average end user.

Adapting to the Digital World

Many organizations haven’t transitioned from the “old school” physical environment. They may be operating with electronic information, but essentially the processes haven’t adapted to the digital world.

It could be any number of things that have been adapted from physical records processes and forced into an electronic environment; for example, asking an employee to go through a formal record declaration process or enforcing a traditional business classification scheme.

Take, for example, the street map — a valuable resource of its time, but something that’s since been replaced by evolving technology.

When the GPS was invented, it didn’t just try and replicate a paper map, it strove to improve on old techniques using the best technology available. This has continued with the adoption of smartphones that have all but replaced the traditional GPS. As user demand and need increased, the technology continued to adapt.

It’s the same for information management. To maximize value as information practitioners, it’s time to think differently about how to manage information and create processes for end users.

Three Steps to Adjust Your IM Approach

There are three key steps organizations can take to approach information management differently and provide the efficiency and effectiveness needed for success:

  1. Take a risk-based approach: The volume of information generated by organizations today is exponential. We no longer have the capacity to manage everything individually. Rather, information managers should take a controlled, risk-based approach to identifying information of high value to the organization. And they should focus approximately 80 percent of their energy on managing this type of information. Everything else can be grouped and managed more holistically but without rigorous oversight. This needs to be aligned with organizational outcomes, business needs, and strategic value.
  2. Make the terminology easier to understand: End users don’t get — nor do they care about — the difference between a document and a record. The definition of a document/file/folder can mean different things to different people. It’s important to meet the end users where they’re at, rather than try to force them into terminology that is, at best, not particularly relevant to them and, at worst, outdated.
  3. Remove the burden of traditional records management tasks: Information management practitioners should take advantage of this leap forward in technology to automate traditional, manual processes. A good place to start is looking for ways to automate classification. If a formal record declaration process is required, technology can automate this rather than relying on the end user to carry out each action.

It’s important to ask: Do the processes we ask end users to go through align with the way they work? Or are they at odds with modern working life?

It’s essential to build easy-to-use information management practices for how users work today — not how things worked 20 or 30 years ago.

By following the tips above and keeping in mind the shifting digital environment, organizations will be better positioned to tackle their information management processes head-on.