Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Information: Lifeblood of Enterprises (2)

Yesterday, I blogged about the statement: Information is the lifeblood of enterprises.29-bloodflow

Today I'd like to use this metaphor to explain why structured and unstructured information should be managed under architecture. Or in an integral way.

I've been thinking and posting about this topic for some time now - it's basically the core of my job. To point to a few posts. Just recently I posted about 'PLM (product lifecycle management) and enterprise 2.0'. And longer ago about managing unstructured and structured information under architecture.

As I've said before: I distinguish between unstructured and structured information in organizations. But they are not distinct. Regrettably this is common practice in most companies. You have people working on Product Lifecycle Management and Enterprise Resource Planning on the one hand. On other you have those that are implementing the intranet, rolling out wiki's and blogs, building document management systems and helping employees use their email effectively. These are two distinct ventures, that seem to have little or no relatedness.

And it's true when you look at the kind of people working in both areas, they are as different as night and day. The first group despises and wants nothing to do with the other. Most knowledge workers hate working in the formal product management and resource planning tools. They're to strict, non-creative, etc. On the other hand the guys and gals that own the formal tools complain that everyone is creating information which is not shared and stored in the 'right' tools.

So, you have two camps. One touts: all should be done in the PLM or ERP system. The others say: throw away the expensive, formal systems, let's just use the 'good' stuff like wiki's, blogs, etc.

Although I relate best to the second group... I don't think one or the other is right. To explain my approach/proposal, let's get back to the thesis in the title of this post: 'Information is Lifeblood of the Enterprise'.

How does blood flow through our body? It 'uses' arteries, veins, smaller and larger blood vessels to transport a.o. oxygen to the right places. Let's say the formal systems, like Product Lifecycle Management and Enterprise Resource Planning tools are the main arteries in the organization. They (should) support the main business processes in the best possible way. But everyone knows these business processes don't summarize the company as a whole. Lot's more stuff is going on in the company. Less formal stuff. People talking to each other, talking to customers, small ideas that are documented and built upon, reports are written to fuse decision making, etc. Oh, yes, these all (should) relate to the main business processes somehow and someday. As the micro and small blood vessels connect to the main arteries. But most of the work starts at the knowledge worker's desk. In his inbox, in his Word document. Typically a very informal process, which seems inferior to the main, formal process. But it's not, relating to blood vessels. If we would cut away the smaller vessels, the whole production and transportation of oxygen will stop!

For this reason, I find it important to define an information management program comprising unstructured and structured information without telling 'unstructured' to become 'structured' or the other way around. Maybe this will mean that wiki's and blogs will become more leading in companies, than they have before. Maybe this will mean that the workflow and change functionality of PLM and ERP tooling will be used to relate wiki pages and blog posts together into a workflow as I proposed commenting on John Tropea's post about Workflow 2.0.

Does this make sense? Does this metaphor help explain the distinction and relatedness between structured and unstructured information? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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5 comments:

  1. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


    Joannah

    http://2gbmemory.net

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  2. Samuel,

    I guess the unstructured/structured situation is much worse than you describe. Well, whats worse, but anyway. Experience with formal systems like ERP and especially PDM (LCM) suggest that the larger part of the information in these systems is not information at all, but documents attached to the product structure. Especially when simulations are also included in the PDM the effect is very big. For ERP the situation is less dramatic, but still I guess that over 90% of the content of most ERP systems (measured in bytes) are unstructured.

    Finally, a bit of a teaser, I find documents far more structured than any structured information in a PDM/ERP structure. Information to me is mostly meaningless as one mostly has forgotten to declare the context of the information.

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  3. Nice Info. I have visted first time on this blog. It seems to be interesting and informative.

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