Alan Weintraub

Alan Weintraub

April 2019

Information Management

An Information Catalog Optimizes Information Utilization

Timely access to the right information is critical when making strategic decisions.  It is also just as important to ensure that the right security policies are in place to secure high value, high risk information.  A big part of a good Information Governance program is the policies that identify high risk information for deletion. See A Manifesto for CDOs in 2019 for more information on how CDOs are dealing with information risk.

All too often the wrong information is used in making decisions or communicating information to interested parties. Applying consistent policies to information provides users with the assurance that they can then access and trust the data.

The days where we looked for one place to capture, store and manage our valued unstructured information are long gone.  Organizations are now faced with the challenge of interacting with multiple repositories focused on many tiers within the organization;

  •  • Local business unit applications – these applications manage data and information localized to a single             business unit
     • Cross business unit applications – these applications manage data and information that is used by multiple         business units
     • Enterprise applications – these applications manage data and information that is use by the enterprise

Blog Pullquote 1

Organizations have tried to implement content management solutions to address these challenges.  Unfortunately, content management has been seen as a highly disruptive technology, requiring users to work in a pre-defined structured manner.  Having many repositories in an organization only compounds this disruption.  Users may need to access different repositories, using different interfaces in the course of their daily activities (see figure 1).  Common information types may be described and used differently in each of these repositories.  Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools are key to automating the creation of a information catalog, providing users with a consolidated view of common information being stored in their many repositories.  Collecting and organizing common documents and information provides users with the assurance that the information they are using for reporting and making key decisions is trustworthy and requires minimal reconciliation.   Organizations can address this increasingly difficult situation by creating an information catalog. Read the blog, Your Information Catalog is the first step towards Information Governance, to learn more on how an Information Catalog is critical to a successful Information Governance program.  The information catalog is a collection of information organized by common groups that provide users with an overall aggregated view of their information stored in the organization’s individual repositories (see figure 2).

 An information catalog helps answer common end-user questions:

  •  • Where are my documents and how can I find them?
     • What is their sensitivity, age or permissions?
     • Are they governed by regulatory compliance?
     • Are the business documents adequately protected?
     • Are the documents considered records that must be retained?

 Figure 1 - Multiple Repositories requires Multiple User Interfaces

Figure 2 - Information Catalog to the Rescue

Blog Pullquote 2

Automating the Information category creation process

Discovering and identifying the vast distributed amount of information stored in an organization’s repositories is a daunting task. An ever-increasing number of documents are being created and stored in a diverse set of repositories ranging from in-house shared drives to new cloud-based solutions, such as Office 365 and sync-share tools. Manually reviewing and organizing the vast quantity of information is seen as an impossible task. It is critical users are able to identify and separate the documents that require management from those that can be either deleted or simply left alone.

Utilizing an automated information identification tool that scans and groups huge amounts of an organization’s information is the best approach to accomplishing this time-consuming task. Recent research has shown that organizations that use an automatic discovery tool increase business effectiveness and sales and marketing by 15 percent.  These tools are able to differentiate all sorts of file types such as contracts from employment agreements (see figure 3). The most effective tools are AI driven, enabling them to contextual understand the document and make decisions on the likeness between one document and another. This intelligence helps yield incredibly low error rates in grouping documents into categories. Having a good understanding of the universe of documents and their associated groupings is a critical task when providing users with the ability to look across repositories for information required to make strategic business decisions.

Figure 3 - Automating the Discovery Process

Assigning business value to information categories

The next step in the process is to organize the documents and associated information into document types that align with the organization’s business structure or taxonomy. It is critical to the efficiency of any organization that the business users understand how to access the information. Users want to work in an environment that does not always requires them to classify their documents, add metadata or store the documents in complex systems.  Many times, the complexity and structure has led to misclassification of the information leading to less than effective and often inaccurate storage of the documents.  

Developing the document types and metadata framework for each document type is often a long, tedious, but valuable effort. The maturity of automated tools, such as AI has led to better capabilities in identifying and assigning metadata, resulting in higher accuracy and quality of the information that describes the information. The association of common information with document types also provides the opportunity to assign value and risk to those document types.  Associating value and risk to a document type will, for the first time, provide monetary insights that could be used in making strategic decisions or providing added protections to the critical information. This provides the business with a way to present an information spending strategy to the executive team and the board that is aligned to business objectives and risk mitigation.  A good example is with all the current information breaches publicized over the last few years.  Understanding information risk would have allowed for funding to be focused on information with the highest value and highest vulnerability. 

A data map (see figure 4) can be used as a tool to more effectively navigate through your organization’s data via the defined document types. By clicking on the graphic, you can navigate the data flows, drill down into areas of interest, and even navigate to individual files. You can use the data map to navigate and visualize the association of documents to the organization’s document types, also known as a taxonomy.

Figure 4 – Data Map

Blog Pullquote 3

Extending information value through aggregation

Organizing and tagging the information completes the information catalog.  The information catalog will provide the users with an aggregated view into their trusted information (see figure 5).  This encompassing view into their information will enable them to make decisions around security, obsolescence, risk and retention.  The information catalog will provide the input needed to create the information governance polices that ensure the appropriate information is available, accessible and reliable when needed for analysis.  A good information catalog will provide both the organization with;

 • Information consistency and accuracy
 • Quick, accurate and easy retrieval of information
 • A high level of trust in the information
 • A set of information security and privacy policies that minimizes risk to the organization

Figure 5 – Aggregated view of information


Automate document discovery: Manually discovering the information that is stored in repositories across the organization is a daunting task.  AI tools provide the automation that speeds the discovery process.

Assign document types and metadata to the information groups: Align the document types with the organization’s business structure or taxonomy. Use AI to automate the identification and assignment of metadata, resulting in higher accuracy and quality of the information that describes the information.

Use the information catalog to create an aggregated view of information: The aggregated view into information will enable users to make decisions around security, obsolescence, risk and retention.

Find commercial value hidden in your Information

About Alan Weintraub

Alan is a senior information management leader and AIIM Fellow focusing on helping organizations maximize the value of their information.  Alan is a leading expert on multiple aspects of enterprise information management (EIM) including information governance (both data and content governance), enterprise content management, data management, digital rights management, and digital asset management.   Get in touch with Alan on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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