4 Tips for Nailing Your Information Management Strategy

Almost everything we deal with throughout a typical workday consists of information. The emails we read and write, the spreadsheets we build and analyze, the documents we review and share—even the voicemail messages we receive—are packed full of information.

In a digital age where these vessels of information are constantly pinging around us, it’s critical that organizations find ways to effectively manage the flow and volume so that the important stuff is protected and the trivial is purged.

This is the bread and butter of the folks at AIIM, the Association for Information and Image Management, who help businesses of all shapes and sizes tackle information management (IM) head on. According to AIIM, “the focus if IM is the ability of organizations to capture, manage, preserve, store, and deliver the right information to the right people at the right time.”

Effective IM strategies address each of these stages in the information management lifecycle. We’ll introduce all five in this article, and give some key tips for adapting them to the unique needs of your organization.

Capture

In any organization, there are countless sources of information and paths for it to travel by. And regardless of whether the information is human-created—like documents and videos—or application-created—like XML files and financial reports—it needs to be captured and processed so it can be handled properly in the “manage” phase.

Technologies like OCR and document imaging can help facilitate this, but having a solid system for classifying different information types can be a key differentiator between success and struggle.

Tip #1: Take the time to map out a thoughtful classification structure for incoming information—it will serve as the foundation for your entire IM strategy. (By the way, there are four great suggestions below in the next phase to get you started!)

Manage

This phase of the IM lifecycle is essentially the centerpiece of the whole strategy. It encompasses collaboration and workflow—meaning the ways the information is actually used—so it’s ongoing.

AIIM breaks the management phase down by information type: document management, web content management, records management, and digital asset management. We think these four categories are a great place to start building your classification structure.

Tip #2: Establishing standardized processes within each of these content types will help keep information flowing smoothly through your organization. Whether your users are dealing with purchase orders or podcasts, it’s important to have guidelines in place.

Store & Preserve

Though these phases are very different, the main purpose of both is the same: to keep information not being used “right now” safe, so it’s available at a later date.

When we think of storage, it’s more about the “how”—is the information stored in a box, on a USB drive, or in the cloud? And are those stored on-premise, at a storage facility, or with a third party? Most importantly, is it secure?

With regard to preservation, it’s all about archival. What needs to be done to the information to ensure it’s not at risk of being lost or altered in the long term? For example, saving a document in PDF/A format helps ensure the integrity of the file, meaning all of the information necessary for displaying the document in the same manner—regardless of the software used to view it—is embedded in the file.

Tip #3: The storing and preservation phases are where your classification system comes in most handy. Being able to retrieve stored or archived confidential and business-critical information quickly can be a game-changer in some situations.

Deliver

This is the payoff phase—the reason effective IM is so important to an organization. When it comes time for delivery, there are three main factors to consider: transformation—ie, what shape or format does the information need to take; security—is the information sensitive and in need of protection or encryption, for example; and distribution—how is the information to be shared.

Tip #4: Use your classification system as a basis for defining rules about format, security, and distribution. For example, would it be ok to send a non-encrypted confidential file via email? 

Information management has changed a great deal due in recent years, and with digital transformation initiatives in full swing at most organizations, it can be difficult to keep up.

AIIM recently conducted a survey among its members to take the pulse of information management, asking questions about everything from information governance to enterprise content management and the role of email. The results are available in a report, Information Management: State of the Industry 2016, which can be downloaded here.