Balancing Act

How is globalization changing the world of information management?

Ask me again in a few years.

Most organizations don't even know how to manage information at a local scale, finding managing information in organizations of only a few hundred people a challenge. Now the powers-that-be are trying to figure out how to manage information on a global scale.

Good luck with that.

Realistically speaking, what is globalization doing? It's causing more people to ask why managing and governing information is so hard. It's bringing experts from across the globe together to try and address the challenges that have been around for years. But all it's revealed is that experts around the globe are smart, and that they all share the same frustrations.

All this truthiness makes for a really pessimistic article, so let's pretend that we can move the needle — how do we get to the point where we even think about information management on a global scale?

Right now you need to think globally and act locally.

Global Sharing of Information

Global organizations face many challenges in information management. Different rules, regulations and expectations exist in every country. Where one country may have a disposition schedule for information, another country will not even let you save that information because of privacy restrictions.

Organizations can implement barriers to try and keep information in the country or region of origin, but why bother? Email and personal devices allow employees to skip those restrictions when they see a need to share information. Besides, one of the advantages of being global is the ability to leverage information, trends and ideas from across the globe. Diversity in ideas leads to success — why artificially restrict it?

“Because jail?”

OK, jail is a pretty good reason, but there are better ways to go about things.

Gain Some Control

Organizations need to gain control of the situation at the office and project level. They need to provide the correct tools to the people doing the work so they can place information into approved systems. This does not mean picking a system and dictating its use. It means learning how people work and finding a way to collect information without slowing them down.

The next stage is implementing basic governance. Ideally this should be started at the beginning, but most organizations by default come in after things have started. Start with an inventory of your systems. Find out which tools each group is using. If some groups are still using undesired solutions, address that in a coherent manner.

After you've collected this information and have categorized what you have, the next step is applying control. This should start at the national level but coordinated across the entire organization. Decisions that make it challenging to work across both real and artificial boundaries need to be avoided to ensure future success.

The final stage is deciding what can be done to make life easier across the globe. Information is being managed in accordance with policies all over the globe — find ways to standardize systems to enable greater productivity. If you've kept the ultimate goal of sharing information globally in mind, this stage is a lot easier than it sounds.

Making Progress

The real goal is improved productivity for the business. Globalization offers opportunities to increase productivity by bringing in fresh ideas and new technologies, but also tempts organizations to skip ahead, neglecting the basic business problems that have been ignored since enterprise content management (ECM) became a goal.

It is OK to think globally, but you have to act locally first. Globalization adds complexities to the world of information compliance that won't ever be answered if you don't first address information management basics.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by  D Sharon Pruitt