Information management can take on many forms. In fact, it’s all around us. Your email inbox, the file system on your computer or phone, and even a physical filing cabinet are all examples of information management.
Still, with so many forms of information—such as text, audio, videos and more—along with swaths of new and old devices distributing it, it’s hard to keep track of all that’s coming in. This is especially cumbersome in a business environment, where up-to-date and accurate information is crucial.
Although the components of information management can be difficult to define, we’ll break down this concept into three key categories: accessibility, storage and governance.
Accessibility in the context of information management comes down to whether or not data is easy for users to access when they need it. Features such as full-text search and metadata fields can support organization and search-ability, which are essential to making information available to users once they have access to a system.
For a look at how information management principles could play out in the physical world, let’s use the example of a local library.
Here, the public can browse books organized alphabetically by metadata such as author and title. This way, if someone were looking for a work by one of their favorite writers, it would be accessible and easy for them to find. They can also always ask the librarian, whose encyclopedic knowledge of book titles, authors and famous quotes makes them almost like a human search engine, enabling them to find books even faster. A library not using these information management strategies might just have books of varying authors, titles and genres mixed, stacked and sorted any which way along with an unfortunately empty front desk—putting the burden entirely on eager readers to find what they need.
Storage and Preservation
Another key component of information management is ensuring that processes and methodologies are in place for the proper storage, maintenance and disposal of data. Certain laws and regulations even establish special retention rules for important or sensitive information types. In addition, it’s imperative to keep data updated to avoid confusion and protect it in case of disaster.
Let’s return to our imaginary library. To establish some retention rules, the library might only keep out the most recent five years of magazines and newspapers, and retire older issues to an archives room in the back of the building or in the basement—save for historically significant issues kept for students and curious historians.
The library might also preserve all issues, new and old, in a secure environment such as plastic sleeves to keep them from wear and tear.
Lastly, to ensure that reference materials have the most updated information, encyclopedias and dictionaries would be put under some form of version control—always available in the most recent edition, with earlier editions available by special request.
Good governance is about having controls in place to ensure that processes and procedures are followed. It’s also especially important to establish and enforce security policies so that only those authorized to view or edit information can do so.
For a library to enforce strict information governance, it might need to take some controversial measures. For one, it might enforce access rights by keeping books under lock and key to make sure unauthorized users can’t read or tamper with them. Second, to ensure information remains intact and reduce fraud, books would need to be returned by the person that borrowed them unless they get express written permission from the library. To track activity, the library might also want to install security cameras to make sure visitors are following the rules, and put trackers on each book that would beep in case of theft. Lastly, the classic check-in and check-out log practices might have to be revised to include permanent ink and a preserved archive of all logs for each and every book, in case this library was audited by a governing body and needed to present a thorough report.
Information Management Solutions for the Real World
It can be difficult to support information management principles in a non-digital setting. That’s why organizations seeking to better manage information need a scalable solution that gives them the tools and capabilities for success.
With a digital system, not only can you easily create and follow the rules, you barely need to lift a finger with the help of process automation suites or digital bots that learn your day-to-day tasks. Most of all, a digital system can more accurately keep an audit trail for compliance purposes.
In terms of the future and innovations in the information management space, intelligent information management (IIM) is becoming increasingly popular. This methodology aims to take the core principles of information management and enhance them to account for new analytics technologies and forms of content, such as social media.
To summarize, information management, in a business sense, is a way for staff to easily access and share information, while also keeping it up-to-date, preserved and secure. While you can manage your information by conventional, paper-based methods, it is far more cost-effective to do so with digital, innovative solutions.