Saturday, January 23, 2010

There Is No Such Thing As "Unstructured" Information

All information, content, documents, chunks have implicit and explicit context and metadata associated with them, therefore they are structure to a certain degree. One of the major issues of keeping tracking and finding content can be solved if the “who” in the equation is dealt with.

Take Records Management. First, the concepts are agreed upon; second, “we have to get something out” requirements are decided on; third, the tools are picked; finally, the issue of how to tag the information is arrived upon. Oh yeah, the creators of the content. How to get then to change the way they tag information, their habits of thinking around identifying their content for world consumption?

The legacy content is another issue altogether. Are you going to force authors to tag and reorganize their whole c: drive? Are you going to auto categorize the share drive and hope your taxonomy is comprehensive enough? Are you going to set up a master/proxy that layers a meta metadata structure on top of everything? Will there be a hybrid approach to humanly sort out the who, what, when, where, how, why (Zachman).

The point here is that it’s the Users, the corporate culture, that have to change their modus operandi. Sound familiar KM? How many times do we have to come up with applications that work around the ultimate issue of training users to think in terms of the group and the community, of sharing not hording ideas and knowledge? Social applications like Facebook will slowly seep into the minds of corporate Users and break this road block wide open.

Let’s hope that Center Stage grabs this trend and really takes off. If it’s easy to configure during a customer demo like SharePoint is, then maybe it has a chance. The overworked, whittled down IT departments out there want easy to administer enterprise software, that can be mostly configured. As soon as Documentum builds in a more comprehensive configuration tool (yeah I know Composer, right, not quite) the issues of customizations breaking or being too focused will be a problem of the past.

File shares in corporations are not “unstructured”. They actually are very structured, but to an indexing application with a taxonomy, they are “unstructured”. The real issues are change management of User behavior and ECM applications, governance with a small stick, and software that IT can be lazy and cheap about. SharePoint is already the next dumping ground, but User’s have learned just a baby step more about tagging their content so that others can find and understand it.

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