As a senior information management leader and AIIM fellow I have spent a lot of time in my career working with organizations to develop or optimize their content-based business processes. Some successful and some not. Using traditional analysis techniques requires participation by a subject matter expert who fully understands the process and end-users who are actively involved in the process as part of the job function. Gathering these people together and getting management commitment can be a difficult obstacle. Many times, I get the feedback from the users; if it isn’t broken, why try to fix it. End-users get caught in the daily routine rut, where they can see the need for improvements. They feel that any change could threaten their job. Also, I had a hard time getting the commitment of the subject matter expert. This person is usually the cornerstone of the business units’ operations. No one wants to let the subject matter expert go off to re-examine the business process and leave the daily operation without support. This leaves the evaluation and optimization of unstructured information-based business processes as lower priority for the end-user and a higher priority for management.
There may be an opportunity to look at less formal information-based business processes in a new way. Traditionally, most business and operational processes were considered to be highly structured and for the most part repeatable. These processes are analyzed and mapped using tools such as Visio. Many processes are still ad-hoc, leaving the document as a breadcrumb trail to the process. For the informal processes, a new novel approach may be to analyze the repositories where the documents are being stored and the users that interact those documents and the information contained in them. Just as you can learn a lot about the finances of a company by following the money, you can also learn a lot about the processes that run the company by following the information. Information may be stored in many documents in different repositories, not always apparent to the user community involved in the process. Organizations, today, are using many different repositories to store their information, ranging from traditional file shares to email to more collaborative ones such as SharePoint or Box. These informal processes may not follow pre-defined steps or rules that govern the more formal processes.
Many of these informal processes may actually benefit from additional rules and structure. Unfortunately, users are not always aware of the process as they lose visibility into the process when the content is stored in their various repositories. Many other problems emerge as a result of using multiple repositories;
So how can we evaluate and optimize these informal, sometimes ad-hoc processes that use different repositories based on user preference. By following the information this will lead us through the process journey. To do this, organizations need to create an information catalog. The information catalog is a collection of information contained in documents and organized by common groups that provide users with an overall aggregated view of the information stored throughout the organization’s individual repositories. The information catalog provides the understanding of what information is being stored and used by the end-users in their daily work activities. The steps to creating an effective information catalog are;
Common information (see figure 1) can be collected and organized into categories (see figure 2) and presented to the users in an aggregated manner that gives the users a more universal view of common information groups. There is a lot of information contained in the document properties that can be used to evaluate the process. These include;
(Figure 1 – initial document discovery)
(Figure 2 – Information categories)
Having an aggregated view of the information, provides the users with the ability to use the information properties as means to trace the information process. The information catalog provides a single place for the user get a complete picture of these informal, sometimes ad-hoc processes (see figure 3).
(Figure 3 – A category view of information)
The users of the information can now make decisions on who really needs to be part of the process versus who become part of the process as more of a convenience than a necessity. The information catalog puts the informational process analysis in the hands of the user and takes the complexity out of optimizing the informational process. Making organizations who employ information catalogs far more effective than those who continue to struggle with their repositories.
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.
by Alan Weintraub January 2019
by Mike Quinn December 2018