Despairing that your office is drowning in paper? Flummoxed by the flood of e-mails you deal with every day?
You're not alone. Despite years of optimistic prognostication, the paperless office is still far from common. Rather, the flood of paperwork that has long plagued corporate Australia continues to grow -- complemented, in recent years, by untold volumes of e-mail and faxes that must all be categorised and dutifully archived.
Indeed, we are storing more information, and more kinds of information, than ever before. Little wonder that shipments of hard drives into the market continue to go through the roof. In the fourth quarter of 2005 alone, market research firm IDC reports, global shipments of hard drives grew 54.6 percent year-on-year to reach 653 petabytes (653,000 terabytes).
A good proportion of that is ending up on corporate storage area networks (SANs), which have relieved many of the problems of earlier server-based storage but are now presenting their own issues for companies trying to stay on top of their information. Tighter corporate governance requirements, among other pressures, mean that companies not only need to be able to store their information, but have to retrieve it in an accurate and timely manner.
This requirement has spurred a flurry of technological enhancements designed to improve the management and flow of information throughout a business. At a basic level, enterprise content management systems are providing rich content indexing, publishing and workflow control that mirrors internal corporate approval processes.
Sophisticated electronic document and records management (EDRM) systems handle images of paper documents and encapsulate traditional recordkeeping discipline for management of paper files. E-mail archiving systems automatically clean up, classify, index and archive mountains of old messages from inboxes across the enterprise. And behind all this, increasingly intelligent storage systems use information lifecycle management (ILM) techniques to monitor the age and relevance of stored content, moving it to progressively slower but cheaper types of storage until it is deleted or backed up onto tape for archiving.
Thankfully, the combination of such technologies has provided an arsenal of tools to help companies get their information under control, but that doesn't mean the process is easy. Here, we offer the stories of five organisations that took different approaches to satisfying a common business requirement: to improve management of their essential corporate information.
At cut-price airline Jetstar, a comprehensive document information management has proved essential to providing regulatory support for the company's move into long-haul international services later this year. The Family Court of Australia has used a growing document management implementation to improve its customer service in fulfilment of a strategic mandate from government auditors.
The Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority used an information management system to improve storage, versioning and distribution of both conventional documents and large-scale geographical plans, CAD files, and other types of information. We catch up with Count Wealth Accountants, which moved into new offices, declared them virtually paper-free -- and has stuck with it.
And, finally, at MBF, the challenge lay in getting better control over intranet and Web content for which, with fully 30 percent of new business coming through online channels, accuracy has taken on a new urgency.
As with most new applications, information management systems -- whether handling paper document images, e-mails or other types of information -- require a concerted effort on everyone's part to succeed. That includes executive buy-in, careful analysis of business requirements, regular user liaison, functional reviews and, perhaps most importantly, the willingness to continue pushing for positive change in the face of inevitable scepticism.
If nothing else, after all, information management systems are all about change -- and it's hardly news that many people don't handle change well. However, it is worth noting the one common theme that wends its way through all of these case studies: little wins breed big victories. Not every company here saw users clamouring to adopt their systems, and many are still working through the process of increasing end-user buy-in. However, giving users the right tools -- and helping them make the most of them -- has paid off in every instance.
The result: smoother, more efficient businesses that are well positioned to keep up with an ever-growing flood of business information. By taking control of that information once and for all, the focus shifts from just keeping up, to using that information to work smarter, better, and more accurately. And that, when it comes down to it, is both the promise and the potential of information management.