Despite data compression, better technology, information analysis and strategic retention policies, Fibber McGee and his closet are alive and well in business today. IT Departments are not only finding themselves buried by the data they purposefully save, but by the data individuals find ways of duplicating and saving in their own personal “closets” such as local drives, email folders and thumb drives. Knowledge bases, such as Wiki and MS SharePoint, offer some hope, but often become disorganized, unusable or out of date.
In a recent Linked In Discussion on this topic, I wrote that our electronic storage behavior suggests the actions of paranoid pack-rats. It’s simply in our nature to want to save bits of data and make backups, even to the point of bordering on compulsive hoarding. That begs the question, how does IT and the business counter this human predilection which can so easily overwhelm us?
- When fear of not finding what it is you might need when you need it is an emotional trigger for saving everything, then make sure access to data is intuitive and quick.
- A sense of ownership of data is important. Some level of active participation in the storage system will reassure users, so that they adopt that system as their own, negating their need to create duplicates.*
- Clarity around the types of information and their value goes a long way, as does a simple format, such as a flexible template.
Example: I recently introduced the concept of using OneNote as a running summary of meetings and repository for Action Items. The summary was restricted to one short paragraph, even just a single sentence. The action items were erased when completed…. I used the metaphor of the grocery list. Wiki’s were still used for information that required permanence, but a lot of the things that seemed “important” were simply more “urgent” and tactical (with an expiration date) than strategic. We rotated the “secretary” role for meetings, so that everyone had ownership. It went over very well. Multiple groups adopted the process, delighted with the simplicity. This may not answer the BIG data questions, but in the “small” it demonstrates the ABC principles listed above.
* However, there needs to be accountability for each piece of data to ensure timely updates, minimize duplication and enforce policy guidelines. It is the equivalent of someone taking responsibility to clean the closet from time to time.