Saturday, September 25, 2010
Information Management is Dead
I'm starting to read more and more about the death of my profession as an IM Specialist and rather than refute it or bury my head in the sand, I couldn't agree more.
I often get stuck on explaining just what IM is. So I revert to a tired slogan for lack of anything else more concise -- 'it's about being able to make sure that the right information is available at the right time in the right format and at the right cost'. In the old days of paper, you relied on Records Managers to describe, organize, search and retrieve your records. But once digitial information arrived, the RM became obsolete. End users managed their own files at their desktop and the rigor of classifying and culling information was thrown by the way side, which is why shared drives are basically dumping grounds of poorly described, duplicate, and obsolete information. Enter the IM Specialist -- someone with the same organizational and analytical skills as the Records Manager, but who is comfortable with technology and can advise on how to navigate your digital nightmare using best practices (which are so pathetically obvious, it's hard to believe that someone actually pays me to do this). You don't know what to name your file? -- How about just calling it what it is? You don't know what information to delete in your email? Try most of what's in your inbox for starters.
One of the big responsibilities of the IM Specialist is to develop a 'Retention Schedule' which is supposed to be a mission critical document that says -- "this is what we keep information on and this is how long we keep it for". So if the company gets sued and can't come up with the documents or emails, they simply point to their approved Retention Schedule and say "too bad so sad, the information was deleted and this here Retention Schedule covers our asses". I won't bore you with how we come up with this magical schedule. In fact all I've done in my six years in this field is talk about it. We have yet to actually DO IT.
Corporate risk doesn't really resonate with end users, so I usually sell it with Search. If you keep everything, including the crap, it'll be harder to find the good shit, right? (of course I attenuate at work, just not in my blog). This is usually sellable because we all know how shitty desktop searching is -- if I search for 'information management', I'll get everything with the words 'information', 'management' or even fucking 'ment' in it. But thanks to advances in technology, namely Google, why delete anything? There is no master Retention Schedule for the Internet, baby! If you have a kick-ass search tool, the good stuff will float to the top and the crap info will remain out of sight. The only time we need to actually delete anything is if there's legislation that stipulates that you have to get rid of something after a specific time period. And really, there's NOT a lot of these out there.
So here I am once again working on 'the Retention Schedule', only I don't believe in it anymore. It's a bloody waste of time to go around asking people what information has value to them. If someone asked you this, wouldn't you think "everything I write has value, you dolt!". And then I have to ask: "How long do you need to keep it for" ... To which they reply: "Why not forever, isn't storage cheap? I can pick up a 1 TB removable drive for $40 at Staples, so don't tell me it's costly for you to store my files. Go tinker with some server in a closet and stop wasting my time, you idiot. Jeesh. How much do they pay those CSes, again?"
So between this and my rant about the uselessness of organizing and classifying information, my profession is already dead. Time for a career change. What though?