Age of Information Management or The Wild West?

Do you remember when the term “file” referred to a paper file that had to be put away when you were done? And when the floppy disks gave way to 2 GB thumb drives? The way to transport files remotely was via FTP and there were size limits as well. Things were kept in check.  Then Microsoft introduced Office 365 in 2011, following with the Office Graph in 2014 and the Security Graph in 2018. Together, the 2 graphs comprise the Microsoft Graph, a unified gateway to data and intelligence in Microsoft 365 – the magical realm of possibilities. Magical realm it might be, and also the Wild West. Cloud adoption started to grow exponentially even pre-covid, with little thought given to organization or even compliance. Let me put things in perspective.

Local libraries

In the physical world, things took time to evolve. Laws took shape over centuries and libraries emerged to store important documents. Where I grew up, we had a small library. It was a room with shelved walls filled with books and there was another that contained the greater collection and archives. The librarian had her usual catalogue system but knew where most books were by heart. Since then, I’ve been to at least a dozen others and one thing remains the same: organization and consistency. Libraries are like the Starbucks of information management: reliable and consistent. My favorite one, by the way, is the architectural marvel Seattle Public Library – this year’s winner of the Library of the Year award.

A few years after visiting Seattle and its beautiful library, I started working for a manufacturing company, a third generation business that grew from a garage operation to a global business in the span of 50 years. The conveyor division had to adhere to ISO regulations and all communications had to be printed and stored together with prints, quotes, email trails, BOM’s and any other relevant info. We had a room aptly named the “dust bowl” that contained 4 decades of those files.  There was a lot of paper, but it was also simple to keep track of things and things were easy to find.  If you had to walk around looking for a file, it allowed to interact with people. It worked, even though I did google history of a paper clip at one point wishing for PDF’s. Paper clip was invented in Norway over 100 years old, in case you were wondering.

Fast forward to today, hypothetically. All the files from the dust bowl have been digitized and the room itself is now a gaming arcade. Hooray!

What happens with all those documents in the cloud though? 

That’s where we potentially end up in the Wild West territory. If I was to ask you what % of your organization’s working files reside in OneDrives and people’s laptops, would you know? How organized is the storage of those files and how long does it take to locate a document? Do you know how many versions of it exist? What is the oldest record on file? Are your Teams channels in compliance with any regulations you have to follow? If you are in the position where you should know the answers and don’t, that’s what I would call the Wild West.

Information Age

A different scenario, attained with an organization-wide information architecture and an effective records management practice, however, would look quite different. Reduced search times would leave employees more time and energy to devote to creative work. Continuous compliance would reduce liability. End result would be a more productive and happier workforce. Welcome to the Age of Information Management.