September 19, 2012 - 3:43 PM
I had a conversation with a brother in law a few years back about academia, and the seemingly overwhelming need to pontificate on every thought, every idea, every possible variation of and argument in a massive semantic web of talking and content and paperwork. Yes yes, that's part of the point of scientific method, of understanding, integrating, and correcting previous knowledge. At the time, I tried to make the point that in business we are not typically able to follow these same principles due to the high cost of testing -- the cost of time, of resources, and especially the cost of competitive advantage. In business, you rarely have the luxury of exploring every possible permutation of an idea -- you assess an opportunity, you do your best to develop a solution (based on your experience, on the experience of the smart people you surround yourself with, and on data you can gather from industry, analysts, customers and competitors), and you do your best to execute.
The closest thing we get to academia in business is the blogosphere. Like academia, the halls are filled with experts real and imagined, some heavily pedigreed, others with savant-like capability that escapes reason, all offering opinions and theory and ideas that explore every possible facet of a technology. Look no further than the hallowed halls of the AIIM community. And I admit to being right in the thick of it, pontificating on every thought, every idea.
Case in point:
As I was responding to a post by Dave Martin, who was responding to a post I had done, which was a follow on to an even earlier post I did based on a conversation with fellow blogger Chris Rileym, I realized that I was furthering the academia model. That's right -- a response to a post about a post about a post based on a conversation, all of which, when it comes right down to it, is around interpretations of the definitions of the platforms within which we work. It feels kind of silly, now that I spell it all out like that, and yet here we are. You're talking about enterprise information management, I'm talking about enterprise content management or maybe enterprise records management, all of which is some form of knowledge management around which we collaborate. Make sense?
Maybe its because I spent a decade and a half in project management and business analyst roles, but in almost every discussion I have -- whether with customers or partners or with fellow experts in the space -- it all comes down to the fundamental need to be clear on what the business needs are. That should be the baseline for any discussion, otherwise its meaningless, its all just noise. The technology is irrelevant until you first agree -- which means you have a shared understanding -- on what you are trying to accomplish. After that, its about describing or defining the primary use cases -- what are the steps that need to take place in order to achieve the desired business result. Once you have that, THEN you can begin the discussion around the technology, and whether one tool or vendor or information management platform will meet those needs.
I spend a lot of time generating content for different use cases, end user scenarios, and business outcomes. I have experiences, I have opinions, and I enjoy talking to others about their experiences and opinions. I suppose we've formed our own sort of academia microcosm here….which is one output of a community like this. My advice for anyone trying to navigate these waters and figure out what is a "best practice" is similar: know your requirements. Develop your use cases. Have a shared understanding with your end users, your team, your management. Don't get caught up in definitions.
Ok, I'm done lecturing. Just needed to get that out of my system.
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