Transforming Information into Knowledge, Part III

Keeping up with a fast paced dynamic business is challenging if not impossible for most IT organizations. Fortunately, there are ways to improve agility and provide better support to fast moving enterprises.

This Article, the last in this series, (Read: Part1, Part 2.) discusses four key strategies for servicing the agile organization:

  • Establish clear content lifecycle processes;
  • Actively manage the content lifecycle;
  • Develop consistent terminology; and
  • Tune search processes to account for inconsistent vocabularies.

Establish clear content lifecycle processes

The agile organization needs knowledge to act on, quickly and effectively.  For our purposes, knowledge is actionable Information, or content placed in context so a reader can execute a task or make a decision. 

One big challenge is that of making optimal tradeoffs between quality and cycle time.  Is it better to provide quick access to information or to allow time for cleanup and validation?

In order to address this question, we must look at who creates information and who needs to handle and enrich it for final consumption.  For example, valuable insights can come from field service technicians who solve problems onsite.  Perhaps the initial problem solving approach is funneled through the engineering department, makes its way through editing processes and ends up in service manuals and online help applications.  But if a field service technician finds a new approach, a shortcut, an error in installation, or a design flaw in a product, should it be distributed immediately, without going through that more controlled process?

Getting this right requires a careful look at the content lifecycle, value of the information, and cost of error.  This points to the need to define content lifecycles, including validation and publishing workflow, for different types of content.  Sometimes, initial drafts will go through multiple rounds of revision and refinement prior to publication.  In others, information will need to be posted in a near raw form to get the value of immediacy.

The important concept here is to recognize the quality vs. speed tradeoff.  Making this tradeoff effectively requires careful definitions of content types and lifecycle workflows.

Actively manage the content lifecycle

It’s not enough to define lifecycle processes.  Organizations need to ensure ownership and responsibility for valid actionable content. This requires a focus on standardization, governance, and accountability.

There is usually no shortage of content related applications and technology in any enterprise.  However, most CIO’s find that they are faced with islands of information that cannot be integrated to achieve knowledge delivery goals.  Typically missing are guidelines and policies for using these tools.  This problem is often aggravated by today’s collaboration systems.

There are many challenges to providing governance processes, consistent organizing principles, content lifecycles, clean up policies and overall curation and management guidelines and procedures.  One aspect of this challenge is to identify the correct level of granularity:  Is this done at an enterprise level or department level?  Should policies be the same for engineering as they would be for marketing?  Are there overall guidelines that can be developed at a higher organization level with specific procedures at the department or workgroup level? 

A best practice approach is to develop centralized content processes and standards while allowing for decentralized decision making and execution at the business unit or department level.  The important point is that having no policies or guidelines will lead to many sites becoming dumping grounds for content, with users unable to find critical information. 

High value content needs to be moved from one location to another through a process of vetting, tagging, editing and organizing.  This applies as well to content that originates in collaborative spaces. Finished documents need to be placed in a location where they can easily be located with the correct metadata and appropriate formatting. This is enabled by workflow processes with specific roles for reviewing and editing for final consumption.  This is the only way to make sure valuable content is found and leveraged across the enterprise.

In order to make this work, many organizations formalize the role of content curator or content owner for a repository. Someone needs to be responsible for cleaning out outdated content and ensuring that metadata is applied appropriately.  Many problem solving processes are chaotic and not well defined. Consequently, understanding where a piece of information is in its lifecycle or how it fits in downstream processes may not be obvious to a shared resource far away from the process.  There needs to be distributed accountability for monitoring the quality of content, promoting or replacing content, and archiving.


This Article, by Seth Earley, was published on CIOUPDATE.COM on September 30, 2011.

Meet the Author
Seth Earley

Seth Earley is the Founder & CEO of Earley Information Science and the author of the award winning book The AI-Powered Enterprise: Harness the Power of Ontologies to Make Your Business Smarter, Faster, and More Profitable. An expert with 20+ years experience in Knowledge Strategy, Data and Information Architecture, Search-based Applications and Information Findability solutions. He has worked with a diverse roster of Fortune 1000 companies helping them to achieve higher levels of operating performance.