I admit it. I get a little bit cranky when people say things like forms processing or document management. Not because I don’t think there’s a reason to have tools to help facilitate those types of activities but because I think by focusing on the processing of forms, you take away the focus on the outcomes that the organization is trying to drive. It’s one of the reasons why I talk so much about assessments because it is oftentimes a more apt phrase for what the organization is trying to do. When you gather information in a form, you generally gather that information so that you can evaluate something, perform a business process, or execute on the next step on some particular work flow.
The point of it is not simply processing the form or managing the document; it’s using the information that you collect to drive value for the organization as whole. That is why I think it’s so important to think about those types of things more from the standpoint of what are you trying to drive rather than the standpoint of simply managing information through a workflow. That mindset of management information through a workflow inevitably ends up with more information under management than is required. You end up collecting information because you can rather than because you need it to make a decision or to execute a business process and it’s a huge problem.
One of the amazing things about our modern technology environment is the ability to manage and store information. However human beings haven’t similarly upgraded their ability to process information in a way that enables better decision making. So the fact that you can store petabytes of data doesn’t mean that you should do it just because you can. There are plenty of reasons to store information, to do big data type analysis, to make determinations of a whole host of different types of things, or to do ongoing investigations of things that might help your business. However if you’re trying to support a specific business process, I believe that you ought to keep the information that you gather to a minimum because there’s a real cost in gathering that information that goes far beyond what it takes to store it on hardware. That’s the smallest component of that cost. So that’s my piece and I’m sticking to it.
If you don’t have it, you can’t give it to the bad guys, er, marketers!
Loved this – thanks for sharing. Great quote here:
“That is why I think it’s so important to think about those types of things more from the standpoint of what are you trying to drive rather than the standpoint of simply managing information through a workflow.”
Sometimes you don’t know in advance what piece of info you will need. That’s not to say that it is wise to just add information/data requirements to a process without a purpose … but the process & data retrieval structure should enable you to retreive each specific data item if/when it may be needed.
AMEN to focusing on the applicability of/need for keeping the information, not just on keeping everything! Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Having said that, I also agree with Scott, and in some situations there are legal constraints about what must be kept. My solution is to keep EVERYthing as it comes in or that I send out — electronically or hard copy, filed by category pretty-much daily — but when a project is done (most of mine cover multiple years), I pull up the virtual and real-world Recycle Bins and have a “confetti” party! My goal is to keep 1/3 or less and recycle 2/3 or more. This approach takes up lots of virtual and cabinet file space for awhile, but allows me to have a second look at everything through the useful ’20/20 hindsight’ lens and make consistent determinations on what’s necessary for a permanent record and what isn’t.
I agree with you to a point – data storage is cheap and tools for doing massive data analysis are helping us do amazing things. I just think that too often we confuse the ability to throw data into reports because the data is available with having the right info available to make a decision.
Right on, Joshua!
As many know, information can be both used & abused …
Here’s another related quote – “A computer can provide lots of incorrect information very rapidly.” Brig Gen Stuart R. Boyd, USAF
For those interested … here is the full article by Brig Gen Boyd – Leadership and High Technology.
Jay – I love the Tufte quote. Scott – thanks for sharing across the link.