Celebrate the Success Stories of Knowledge Management - 2022 KMWorld Awards

  • May 6, 2019
  • By Marydee Ojala Marydee Ojala, Conference Program Director, Information Today, Inc
  • Article

Sorting Through Content Management

The house around the corner from me has been for sale for several months. It’s a nice house, but it backs on a busy street, so it hasn’t sold. Last week I saw a moving truck in front of it. I assume the owners ran out of time and had to pack up to move to their new location. Moving is not for the faint of heart. Packing up your belongings, wrapping them carefully to prevent breakage, putting them in boxes, sealing up the boxes, and hoping that all the boxes with their content intact actually arrive at their destination is nerve-wracking. It’s also time-consuming, decision-intensive, and just plain hard work.

Seeing that moving truck made me wonder about trends in moving. I discovered that the U.S. government has been gathering statistics about this since 1948. The Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement (CPS-ASEC) informed me that, contrary to what I thought given the number of moving vans I see in my neighborhood, the percentage of U.S. households that move each year is actually declining, from 20.2% in 1948 to 11.2% in 2016.

National statistics are one thing; personal experience is something altogether different. My parents never moved. After they died and I was in charge of the contents of their house, I realized the house was full not only of my parents’ possessions, but also much of my grandparents’. Deciding what to do with all that “stuff” was something I put off as long as possible. Whether it’s a death or downsizing, one tricky content management question is family heirlooms. Will anyone really want the silver, the rocking chair, or the books? If it’s family history documents, they can be duplicated and made available to the entire family. Objects present different challenges.

Reducing the contents of a house to moving boxes is a challenging task. Even before the packing begins, decisions about what to keep, what to donate to charity, what to sell, and what to throw out must be made. When my in-laws had to move with only a few weeks’ notice, my mother-in-law and I made three piles: Take, Store, Discard. Some of those snap judgements she later regretted. As with companies facing content management decisions, individuals find that sorting through possessions is not as simple as it appears.

Living It Up

I was struck by the comment from Upland Software’s EVP & Chief Technology Officer, Sean Nathaniel, that digitizing documents wasn’t the most important task these days. Instead it’s “infusing life into the information we collect.” Just as packing up to move entails decisions about what is worth keeping and what has outlived its usefulness, some “documents” are “dead data.” Even if they’ve moved from paper to electronic, they may have reached their end of life.

It requires a strategy to intelligently capture data and that strategy should involve standardizing practices or establishing processes that increase efficiency, reduce costs, and improve results. Nathaniel notes that of the three systems that Gartner identifies as essential for content collaboration platforms—systems of engagement, of process, and of record—the most important is Systems of Process. Of course, you still want to engage your employees and comply with records retention policies, but the process of acquiring, disseminating, retaining, and destroying data is at the heart of driving value. Done well, it leads to a rebirth of the document life cycle.

Transforming physical documents into digital ones is hardly a revolutionary step. In and of itself, digitization cannot bring dead data to life. What is needed is a process that will put smarter practices and processes into place that will change existing data into intelligent, living metrics. Storage isn’t the desired end result. Instead, it’s the ability to gain insights from existing data and from data yet to be generated. This, in turn, leads to enhancements in the services you offer.

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