Anne Tülek's blog
This thing called the information lifecycle isn’t exactly a topic for cocktail party chatter. Well, perhaps if the cocktail party is attended by some Access Sciences employees or MLIS students. But otherwise? I’m not so sure it would capture the imagination of very many everyday folks. But here I am writing about it today…because? OK, you've probably established by now that I’m a nerd, and I just spent my Sunday afternoon managing the lifecycle of my home information. (I love that disposition part. A little too much, according to some members of my family, who have periodically discovered that some documents they thought were worth keeping got taken out to the shredder.) But the information lifecycle was on my mind before my Sunday afternoon organizing-fest.
This past week was the Houston ARMA Chapter’s Spring Conference. The week before was a Houston area OpenText user group event. And there was a Sharepoint event recently thrown into the mix, too. What amazing programs! The presentations were powerful and the speakers delivered impactful messages that helped a host of participants. There were some topics on Web2.0, collaboration, retention management, technology, and many more. But every presentation and discussion had something in common: The information lifecycle.
What do we need to do to know what information we have? To know whether it is transient, for collaboration, a usable template, or a record? And why are these designations so important? And if they are so important, why do so many organizations have a hard time doing anything about it?
Do you know any teenagers? If you do, you know that email is something they think old and out of touch people use. They are much more likely to be reached by text message, twitter, MySpace, or Facebook postings. If you expect one of them to respond to an email, you are asking them to do a very un-cool deed. Some of them will reply out of respect for the elder (obviously elder, or it wouldn't have been an email) who sent it to them, but most teenagers will look at you blankly when you ask about the email you sent and say something like, "If it isn't a text message, I don't read it." Or my favorite from a well-provided-for high school senior, "Email? What's that?"
So... this is a clue that the next generation of workers probably won't use email as their primary communication medium at work. And that opens up a whole new discussion on Web2.0/Enterprise2.0 …but I won’t go there now.
But where does that leave the rest of us who are already IN the workforce and are completely inundated by email? Jesse made a point last week that discovery costs are a big component of the ROI for companies to manage email effectively. I’ve done that math, too, and agree completely. But is there another ROI as well? The ROI of workforce sanity? Productivity? Focus? I read a couple of years ago that someone had conducted a study and concluded that email was more distracting to a knowledge worker’s ability to do their job than smoking marijuana would be. WHAT? You’re kidding, right? Well, I read it in an email, so it must be true. Seriously, here is a reference to the 2005 study in a 2007 article in the Huffington Post (www.huffingtonpost.com). I include it because I thought that within 2 (now 4) years of the study’s publication, someone would have conducted another study to contradict the results. But it seems that no one has:
“In 2005, a psychiatrist at King's College in London administered IQ tests to three groups: the first did nothing but perform the IQ test, the second was distracted by e-mail and ringing phones, and the third was stoned on marijuana. Not surprisingly, the first group did better than the other two by an average of 10 points. The e-mailers, on the other hand, did worse than the stoners by an average of 6 points.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tim-ferriss/marijuana-trumps-blackber_b_46595.html)
Like all of you, I care a lot about the future of our country’s economic well-being. I know that I’m not exactly alone with my concern, and so I’m interested in ways to translate that concern into something real...NOT something political. Last week’s posts, many of which centered on the notion of keeping less to get more value from what we have, kind of lead me here. What those posts and comments did was get me to chew on this idea of clarifying the business value of efficient information management. There are all sorts of reasons for managing information well, but there is one reason that gets the attention of every business owner, shareholder, and CEO, and should get the attention of any government influencer as well: Managing information effectively not only pays for itself, it can enhance profit margins.
Are you a pack rat, a neat-nic, or something in between? If forced to confess, I’d have to say that I’m probably closer to a pack rat. But I’m a pack rat who goes through several seasonal sessions each year of throwing things out. (My friend Lynda calls me a “binge cleaner”.) So does that put me in the “something in between” category? Who knows? What I find interesting about this train of thought, though, is the notion that in those parts of my house and office where it is a natural part of the room design and process to keep clutter to a minimum, I do reasonably well. Where the design doesn’t support “clutter free”, I end up with piles that need sorting (and re-sorting).
I find that in those areas of my life where I take the time to think ahead, design a process, and establish the tools necessary to support efficiency, I can live a clutter free existence. Of course life changes on us and that means that we periodically need to rethink our process and update our tools. That’s a little easier if we are talking about a shift from carrying football and soccer equipment around in the car with some semblance of order to carrying softball and baseball equipment around, but you get the point. And this has anything to do with managing our information? I think so.
How much of your day is spent looking for the information you need to respond to that email, complete that registration, prepare for your presentation, or answer your colleague’s question? Every year I see studies suggesting that it could be 30-50% of your day. Up to HALF of our time? They’ve got to be kidding. If those statistics have any relevance (and since I see them every year, I guess I have to admit that they do), then wouldn’t we all be better off with less to go through? With better processes that naturally force us to keep less information? But how do we sort the trash from the keepers when our information flow is as fast-paced as it is? There are a lot of product promises about classifying and sorting our information, emails, and documents so that we have less of the transient trash and more of the content we need. But is getting our business and information management practices into the “less is more” space as easy as they say? I’d love to hear what you have to say about that question. Let’s chat.
I'm the first to admit that we have too many acronyms in our world. Way too many. And now we have the new language of texts: BRB. WRT. TTFN. Oh - that last one was Tigger-speak, not cell phone text-speak. In any case, I'm guessing you agree that acronyms are a challenge to decipher. So why would we add another one? E-C-R-M? Well, we found that the software industry was inadvertently causing some organizational pain for our clients with their acronyms as they tried to sort through their information and technology management solution, so we decided to help broaden the definition of ECM (Enterprise Content Management) and ERM (Enterprise - or Electronic - Records Management) to something more holistic: ECRM (Enterprise Content and Records Management).
We are a group of employees who come from a variety of impressive professional information and technology management backgrounds. Every individual in our company brings unique skills, interests, and educational experiences. Like the Access Sciences starburst logo represents with its many connected colors, shapes, and sizes, these high-performing professionals are all linked by our standards of excellence, our leading methods, and our collaborative, team-oriented culture.