“Gartner predicts by 2016, 20% of CIOs in regulated industries will lose their jobs for failing to implement the discipline of information governance successfully.”
Houston, we have a metadata problem. And search is broken but when was it ever fixed?
Tagging is the glue that organizes our information. The rub is that most humans (yes, even engineering and accounting professionals) think and express in terms of letters, not numbers. What someone internal calls "enterprise social media" someone else client-facing might tag as "engagement collaboration."
With so many perceptions coloring a plethora of word choices it's no wonder that internal taxonomies are neglected as a pain point. They either end up so rulebound and inflexible that they reflect outdated and disconnected definitions or that they're so fluid and open that there's no overarching structure for matching similar or overlapping terms and cross-referencing them to affiliated topics.
These unworkable choices resurface in the two extremes posed by ECMs and social media tools. On the one hand our deliverables, templates, profiles, and policies are in shackles! We have the claustrophobic-like constraints of a publishing model generating more bottlenecks than a bottling plant in Beijing. Conversely we have the all-you-can-click feed frenzy of a Jive or a Jive, Yammer or Chatter. Seems like a blend of casual and a dab of structure might be the ticket?
Telltale sign: How do we re-appropriate the buried and lost ECM artifacts via SharePoint. Houston, pssst, awaiting guidance. Do you copy? Houston?
It doesn't matter.
It's not going to take the direction of "leadership from on high" here. Nor is a matter for minions fixating on the publishing machinery of an outdated model. It's going to take a rebalancing so that all the advantages of social media (user tagging, popularity ranking, crowdsourcing, transparency ...) bake into a SharePoint maturity model. It's a reality for some and still a stretch for many that business needs place ahead of the protocols which still keep systems siloed and users isolated in their own enterprises.
This frustration is not limited to taxonomists and search managers. You don't have to be a metadata freak to have serious doubts that turning to either extreme is the same as turning on the proverbial fire hose -- a virtual eruption of filter-resistant file dumps.
Are such traditional conventions of enterprise systems as "audiences" or "end-users" valid in a world of activity streams and crowdsourcing? The deliberative caretaking required to maintain a glistening and compliant records management collection doesn't model the priorities, resources, and usage scenarios around the knowledge transfer responsibilities of an ECM.
Libertarian View of Information Governance
What's behind the vacuum in leadership? Gartner says one-in-five CIOs will see their way out the corporate door soon without a governance structure in place. Why are IT executives dragging their heels around the increasing need to build structure around their organization's digital assets and knowledge capital?
In today's world of cross-your-fingers-and-hope your IP is being managed correctly, the familiar stewards are content-facing -- not business-focused. The orthodoxies of formal classifications maintain consistency until competing vocabularies causes logjams, territorial bickering, and calls for top-down leadership that rarely arrives. It's not the refereeing that the group heads resist so much as the reality -- that a pure, governable index can be centralized and managed and stretched across the sloppy, wavering, and uncertain inputs from those the taxonomy was designed to support. Posting last week in the Taxonomy Community of Practice on LinkedIn, Janet Brimson writes:
"You need to send a clear sense of your logic to the user which can be intuited straight up - this may change by collection or domain but needs to be consistent per information set."
Unfortunately it's that consistency that buries the actions and outcomes our communities are expected to deliver. Here Brimson appears to be arguing for action-based taxonomies as a means to anticipate user needs and meet them on their terms (literally and figuratively):
"Obviously we can't see the content going into your classification but it looks like you have called out too much overview content burying process -- users want you to get the monkey off the back first -- the how, if they have time they will want the why. Minimise the what. It often wastes their time."
Hope on the Horizon
There are two encouraging developments around how we classify our outputs, a.k.a. what we call stuff: (1) This is by no stretch a unique challenge to any one services firm or sector; and (2) there are tools and frameworks that can both rationalize and reconcile the volume of data generated with the proportion of those assets leveraged on actual utilization.
I recommend the Oppenheimer case study that was presented last week as a webinar from the client and consultant (PPC) perspective. The webinar sponsor is Conceptual Searching -- an auto-classification tool that bolts onto the MMS (Managed Metadata Services) in SharePoint 2010.
You'll also find some viable frameworks for addressing our SharePoint adoption efforts through the lens of classifying and repurposing our work product. My personal favorite is the Taxonomy Build-Out Start (slide 32) from Heather Hedden, author of the Accidential Taxonomist. Her model compares the convoluted organization schemes that live on our hard drives with a more viable way of presenting search results, codifying outputs, and winning new work based on our demonstrated success. Axceler Evangelist and AIIM Blogger Christian Buckley had a similar post on this last December ("User Generated Taxonomies Will Make or Break SharePoint.")
Regardless of your deployment schedule or which features get turned on when, the difficult work for any large and complex organization boils down to a question of information governance. A roadmap for bridging enterprise content with social media might not be the first priority for heading down this road. But it is the destination of choice for information architects who build for a fluid world -- not the static markings of a dead language called content management.
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