Is Your Information Really an Asset?

by Linda Daniels-Lewis.

Is your information really an asset?

In other words, does it have any value? That may seem to be a philosophical question but, in fact, it’s quite practical. Since the value of information is in its use, what I’m really asking is: is it well-used? More particularly, ‘is it well used now?’ rather than ‘will it be valuable as historical evidentiary material at some point in the future?’

While we all state lofty goals to manage information as a strategic asset “to support program and service delivery; foster informed decision making; facilitate accountability, transparency, and collaboration” as well as to “preserve and ensure access to information and records for the benefit of present and future generations,” to quote the GC Policy on Information Management, as information managers we often focus too much on the latter: preservation, rather than on the ways that we can make information useful, and therefore valuable, now.

I think the key take-away from the Policy on Information Management is that, as information managers, we should focus on ensuring “digital information is accessible, shareable and usable.” After all, we are talking “digital” information, not paper. We have to think of different ways to use the technology available to us so that we can manipulate our rich knowledge bases of unstructured information assets in the same ways as business applications can manipulate valuable structured data. We have to make the corporate document and records management system a key resource for busy policy developers and service deliverers!

Just what am I talking about? Well fundamentally it’s this:

We have to transform the concept of information management from “filing” information to “using” information.

The people who place a real value on using digital information are those that run e-commerce sites; for them, organizing the information in the right way to ensure their customers get what they want means real $$. When we go to their sites, we don’t expect to navigate through a complex folder structure; we expect to select a category, refine that by further sub-categories, and eventually arrive at that exact pair of shoes, book, or car that we need. We navigate intuitively on these sites; we don’t have to learn structures; we are guided cleverly to “Check Out”.

We can do the same for guiding users quickly to the information they want, along the discovery paths they choose, with no wrong way; and we can do it now. For users that only ever want the same information, we can get them there quickly and save their path as a Favourite (then a one click route). For those that want to explore and share knowledge to maximize innovation, they can explore the knowledge base in any way they want, using categories for activities, subjects/topics, time periods, organizational groups, etc. For executives who want to see a high-level strategic view of the organization’s directions and results across the enterprise, they can see the knowledge resources in information dashboard views.

Introducing these new “eBay style” architectures will be a shift for users as well as information managers. Users will be asked to tag their documents in ways to make them useful to their colleagues. Yes, I know, users hate metadata . . . but we can use information architecture components in ways to make it easy for the end users and provide so much “pay back” that they will understand what’s in it for them.

You can hear more about some of the architectural components we have been working with in our GTEC workshop on “eBay-syle Architectures for Government Information” this Tuesday, October 18th at 2:30pm.


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