Friday, January 4, 2013

Enterprise Information Management

Information management is difficult in any form, but there's no shortage of tooling to try and address the needs. My own needs are probably a subset of true ECM, but here are some of the more basic ones I would like to see. The main categories I care about are the authoring experience, the content features, the reading experience and the organization and ability to discover information.



Please comment if you can recommend a tool that meets these needs.

Authoring Experience

The authoring experience is critical. Writing documents to support an enterprise architecture practice is as much about the thinking process and collaboration than it is about the end result. The editors used to author the content must:
  • Provide a frictionless authoring experience. The editor must be fully featured, work online and offline, and support rich content and generally have a low barrier to entry.
  • Provide a collaborative environment for content creation. This means multiple simultaneous authors with chat, commenting, and social features.

Content

The content created has a set of features in and of itself. These include:
  • Rich: It must have the normal text + images, but it should also be able to include tables, embedded attachments of supporting documentations, videos etc.
  • Linkable: Individual articles must be able to link to other articles. Additionally, links must be permanent
  • Versionable: Reference content changes over time, so it's important that content can be versioned to match specific points in time.
  • Responsive: I may read the content on multiple devices in different situations. The content should be flexible enough to give the full experience on large screens, but still retain the key information should I decide to read it on my phone during my commute home.

Reading Experience

I want to be able to consume content at my convenience. Whether that be when I have time to sit down in a coffee shop (not often!) or I'm in a packed streetcar, or even if I'm stuck in a lineup at the local grocery store. This means:
  • The content should be available online or offline. Personally, I'm a really big fan of Pocket. It. Just. Works.
  • The content should be available by multiple channels. This could mean via the web, mobile web, e-reader, RSS etc.
  • As mentioned above, the content, or the content viewport needs to be responsive, allowing me to get the nuggets of information I need, even if viewing the text only.

Organization

Knowledge is useless if it cannot be found. Good content is well organized - the information is exactly where you'd intuitively expect to find it or appears when you use certain keywords to search for it. A lot of thought goes into SEO for websites - the same should go for optimizing the discovery and adoption of all your content. General guidelines include:

  • Strict hierarchies are more of an overhead than a utility. Nuggets of knowledge rarely relate to only one branch. The system must support much more flexible content hierarchies - ones that allow the same content to appear at different parts.
  • Tags, Categories, Taxonomies are hugely important to get right... content needs an information architect.
  • Search is paramount. I'm a searcher, not a navigator. Content needs to respond well to search terms. In addition, search needs to be continuously tuned to meet my needs. 
  • Cross referencing and non-explicit relations between pieces of knowledge is a huge help to a deeper understanding. I'm a Wikipedia addict because reading one article results in 10-20 extra windows being opened (or saved to Pocket) from related links. I love it when the system automatically suggests related reading beside the current article.

In summary, I'm asking a lot of an enterprise information management system. Maybe this already exists in the form of the actual web today without any special software. I'll let you know what I end up settling on and why.

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