No matter how small your organization or domain, you are going to need tools to find content sooner than you think. Starting with a small amount of content you should already be thinking about what its purpose is, why you would need to find it again and under what circumstances. Trying to retrofit a search strategy and structure to a mountain of disconnected content, is not only very difficult but it is costly. Waiting means that human intelligence, which could have been applied to organizing content well as the supply grew, must be applied later to get it under control. Adding meaningful context around old but valuable content is a very laborious intellectual process.
Growing an organization successfully means tending to not only the products you are creating and selling. It is also about creating an environment in which your growing work force is well supported with a knowledge framework that keeps them centered and confident that content they need to do their jobs can be found quickly, efficiently and accurately.
I am frequently asked by other consultants if I can give advice on how to organize personal files and records. This is hard to answer because my own methods fall short of where I want to be. But in any new project or venture, I try to get a good sense of how content needs to be organized. I do create metadata using a controlled list of terminology. I also have a couple of search tools that I leverage to produce readings for clients on a special topic, or to put my hands on a specific document, article or Web site. Early stage companies need to think about how to safeguard the results of their work and how it will be made accessible to workers on a reliable basis. There are inexpensive search tools that are great for managing small domains.
Invest in tools, invest in someone to manage the tools, and plan to continue to invest in the resulting infrastructure of people and tools as the organization’s content and needs grow. Content management and search are overhead expenditures you must make early to prepare for growth and sustainability.
That reminds me, I keeping wondering how many enterprise search vendors use the technologies they build and sell to support their rapidly growing enterprises. That’s a great question to ask your potential search vendor as you decide what tools to procure for your enterprise. Get them to tell you how they use their tools and the benefits they see in their own enterprise. If they aren’t at least using their own search technology in their customer relationship management and technical support knowledge-base operations, think carefully about what that might mean concerning ease of deployment and utilization.
OASIS announced that its members have approved version 1.1 of the Open Document Format for Office Applications (OpenDocument) as an OASIS Standard, a status that signifies the highest level of ratification. The result of a collaboration between advocacy groups for the disabled and open source and commercial software vendors, this new version of the standard provides key accessibility enhancements to ensure that the OpenDocument format (ODF) addresses the needs of people with disabilities. OpenDocument 1.1 supports users who have low or no vision or who suffer from cognitive impairments. The standard not only provides short alternative descriptive text for document elements such as hyperlinks, drawing objects and image map hot spots, it also offers lengthy descriptions for the same objects should additional help be needed. Other OpenDocument accessibility features include the preservation of structural semantics imported from other file formats, such as headings in tables, and associations between drawings and their captions. The new version of OpenDocument reflects the work of the OASIS OpenDocument Accessibility Subcommittee, which is made up of accessibility experts from IBM, the Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI), RNIB, Sun Microsystems, and others. The Subcommittee’s recommendations were incorporated into the OpenDocument specification by members of the OASIS OpenDocument Technical Committee, which includes representatives from Adobe Systems, IBM, Intel, Novell, Sun Microsystems, and others. http://www.oasis-open.org/committees/office/, http://www.oasis-open.org
Here’s some interesting news from IBM that caught my eye — new enterprise mashup technology, QEDWiki from IBM labs. To quote from the press release, it seems that wikis can front-end business process redesign initiatives.
QEDWiki, which is based on Web 2.0 technologies, is applicable for business situations. IBM’s Enterprise Mashup Technology breaks down the barriers of traditional application development and provides a framework that uses information from the Web and wiki technology to allow people to create a customized application in less than five minutes. For instance, many businesses rely on weather conditions when planning daily operations. QEDWiki can help a logistics manager plan the most efficient way to send rock salt, shovels and snow blowers to the Northeast to stock the store in time for a forecasted record snow storm. By using the enterprise mashup maker, the manager can “drag and drop” weather reports, online maps and the company’s national hardware inventory data into an application that will show which stores will be effected by the storm and which stores need inventory. The technology can quickly enable a store manager to prioritize product deliveries to meet customer demand within a small timeframe.
Per chance, wikis provide a more intuitive presentation of information than simple lists. This is going to be an important development for collaborative technologies. Moreover, mashups when linked to wikis can facilitate rapid application development–quickly putting up an ad hoc information sharing environment and then tweaking it, on-the-fly.
But all this begins by having access to well-tagged, self-describing content. The hard part is designing the underlying information architecture, developing the relevant content schemas, and tagging all of the content and their varied contexts in the first place.