Information Management Possible? by Alan Flett

This post is about this article I read: Flett, A. (2011). Information Management Possible? Business Information Review, 28(2), 92-100. Retrieved from on 2 September 2011. (you need to be a NTU staff or student to access full text from this link).

I enjoyed reading this article perhaps because it was timely and relevant for a project that I have been agonizing over how to start. I seldom feel helpless but this one is like “where do I even begin?”. Before I proceed, a summary by the author.

Author provided abstract

Information Management often goes awry in organizations due to a lack of basic planning and respect for the complexity of the job at hand. A key discipline that often gets overlooked in that planning is that of Information Architecture. This article contends that Information Architecture is a strategic and holistic information discipline that should be central to any Information Management project or programme, both in its planning and execution. Instead, organizations often follow a variety of poor Information Management strategies where the common factor is their ignorance of Information Architecture’s importance; Information Architecture allows for the rational and optimizing systematization of information. Such tenets will only become more important in the future as information moves towards semantic richness.

Let me list my learning points here:

1. Information Management (IM) Subjective Goals

Flett listed a number of subjective goals of IM and I find the ones below to be most pertinent to my organization. I mean, I know the problems vaguely and it was great that Flett fleshed them out in words.

  • Information/Systems Usability – IM systems should be highly usable, even enjoyable and provide all the functionality a user need.
  • Information Access and Collaboration – IM systems should enable information to be open and accessible to all users that require them.
  • Information Lifecycle – IM systems should manage the lifecycle of information from creation, disposal or archival.
  • Information skills and practices – IM systems should require as little training as possible.

2. What is an information management review and an information audit

An information management review is a thorough investigation of the current IM systems, culture, policies and environment of an organization. Flett said that this often entails talking to cross-section of stakeholders abou the nature and scope of information and how it is used in business processes and in daily work. An information audit is seen as a part of a IM review which entials the use of e-audit tools.

According to Wikipedia,

“Information Architecture (IA) is the art of expressing a model or concept of information used in activities that require explicit details of complex systems… Most definitions have common qualities: a structural design of shared environments, methods of organizing and labelling websites, intranets, and online communities, and ways of bringing the principles of design and architecture to the digital landscape.”

3. Value-based Framework

For understanding the value that is added to information as it flows through the IM systems and where IA facilitates the value-add.

  • Source – Information sources need to be scoped.
  • Assimilate – Information scoped needs to be assimiliated by identifying the structural/management metadata.
  • Interpret – Information scope and with metadata assigned need to be assigned some meaning, like asking “what is this information about?”. Controlled vocabulary, ontologies, thesauri and etc comes into play here.
  • Configure – Information here are build up into collections of information such as document libraries, teamsites, websites and etc.
  • Present – Information here are presented to the user, for example, a user interacting with a website, a document library.
  • Use – Ideally the IM systems contain information user want, is displayed in a way that make sense to them and that maximizes the value inherent in the information.