Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Socks and knowledge

I read this blog post by Nick Milton today. He uses the analogy of the sock drawer and some images to demonstrate ways of managing content in a knowledge base. This resonates with me because I struggle to find a balance between the librarian in me (orderly, clearly titled documents, restricted structure and categories) and the focus on search as a better solution for finding randomly stored information (the mess represented in the first image).

Photo taken from Nick Miltons blog.

Nick is right - re-use is key in this debate. Project managers want to have all of their project information and knowledge in one place but our legal team want to be able to see all contracts for the agency in one place too. Do the contracts sit under the program area folders or in a Legal > Contracts folder.

I am thinking of our or electronic records management system (ERMS) at the moment, which is based on a Windows-like file structure. This structure is tight with limited ability for users to change names on files and create new ones. It works for some and not for others.

Some love the orderly approach and can find the info they need, especially the information they filed (because they thought about the detail BEFORE THEY FILED). Others don't understand why the system doesn't 'work' for them, in which they generally mean - it doesn't look like their own folder structure (folders called stuff, my stuff, more stuff etc). It takes time and some thought to work out where to save and find information and our ERMS search function is poor.

So, is it better to have a free for all, let people stick what they like, where, create folders, name folders and just provide a super dooper search function?

In our case I think the solution Nick Milton recommends and one that I agree with is a way of accessing all information around a topic (in our case a project) in one location. This becomes more of a knowledge solution - a knowledge base. For my agency this is likely to be based on SharePoint 2010.

Instead of having a folder under Legal for Contracts which holds all contracts for all projects in the agency, contracts would sit with the related project information (budgets, e-mail, presentations, agreements, publications, reports, contacts etc). It would tell a richer story around that project, provide access to reports, financials, research, people and background information. If all of the contracts are tagged as contracts a good search function should satisfy the legal and finance departments also?

Fine, I just have to work out how to do the records management, behind the scenes :-)

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