We live in a world where the ever increasing accumulation of information has both helped businesses to thrive and succeed, but has also presented them with what often seems like insurmountable Information Technology traps.
Q: What should an organization do when information islands isolate each department from another? Or, when huge amounts of data are stored with no index or easy way to access it?
These are problems that thriving businesses often have to face, but rarely have the time to resolve. Information Technology shouldn’t stand in the way of a business’s growth, or muddy the view of its assets, it should be the hand that clears the way to success.
Let’s start with some examples.
The client of a mortgage company is having a hard time convincing client services that they’ve been making extra payments because accounts receivable has no way of sharing that information with them.
Or, Radiology has no efficient way of sharing information with Emergency so a worried parent is left wondering about the peanut stuck in her son’s nose.
Or, in the case of warehouse management, there’s one system to take orders, another to track inventory, another to do billing and yet another to do specialized functions like decision support.
Special systems are designed to provide solutions for every department, but they are all done independently of each other, thus creating information islands. These islands create a communication and data gap that demands time and money to reconcile.
Many companies try and resolve this problem by reinventing their technology systems, but this often results in a loss of their initial IT investments. Furthermore, these solutions have hidden costs, such as the loss of productivity as staff adjust to new workflows, or end-user trial and error that eats into company time.
A better solution, and frequently overlooked one, is to develop an initial business strategy. Working with key business leads and qualified Technical Information Architects. A small investment of time and money can result in future savings that are multiple that of the initial investment. Even in the case where separate systems have been developed in isolation over many years, developing a strategic plan will help lessen the cost of future IT reinvention.
Communication barriers between departments dissolve, data is used more efficiently and no department is left in the dark. It is never too late to take a strategic approach!
With the cost of storing information being so inexpensive these days, it’s easy to accumulate and save unmanageably large quantities of data but it’s another thing altogether to make it useful to your business or organization. An information blob is a large storage of data that has no index to help group and manage that information easily.
Some examples include the fileshare dumping ground. This can be the online google drive or local network folder that the entire staff have open access to. Over time each person creates their own folder with their own files. So, if Bob wants the report that Debbie wrote he has to ask her where it is because there is no way to find it a system with thousands of folders and tens of thousands of files.
Another example is the database with lack of structure. Let’s say you have a list of donor records and you want to find all the Canadian donors. If the citizenship field is freeform, then the data entry folk will enter in different values for Canada such as CAD, Cdn, Canada, CD etc. Trying to find all the Canadian donors because a difficult task as one needs to guess all the combinations typed in to represent Canada.
Avoiding the information blob problem requires a conscious effort to organize the data in a way that is useful to the organization. What sort of information or insights does the business really need from this data? And to understand that, we need to know what kinds of questions should be asked of the system.
Once these questions are answered, the path has been cleared for a Technical Architect to be brought in and design a system that will meet all needs.
Technology is great, and having the ability to store information is fantastic! But without strategic planning the information becomes inaccessible and ultimately, useless.
It Never Hurts To Ask
If some of these symptoms seem familiar to you, or if you think your business or organization might be headed towards one of these traps, do not hesitate to contact us, your friendly, neighborhood Technical Architects.
Business comes before technology and not the other way around.