Attending a small conference yesterday I had the pleasure to listen to
a representative of the dept. for history of Munich’s Ludwig
Maximilian University. He giving a presentation on the influence of
the web on information management and made some interesting
statements…

Availability of and access to historical information
As an historian he was really concerned about the fact that
information that is currently collected in digital format won’t be
accessible to historians in 50 years. Simply due to the unforeseeable
development of the devices people will use to
find/access/consume/manipulate knowledge. A very interesting
perspective on the subject.

However, already today companies are facing the challenge that a
significant portion of their knowledge – in a lot of companies the
most valuable asset – is buried in databases. Hardly accessible for
those who are looking for help/inspiration. Pretty much inaccessible
for those who are new and don’t even know what they could look for.

That’s where the new perspective of information following users based
on preferences, relevance and importance comes into play. And I truly
believe that that direction of knowledge management – knowledge
arranging itself around the person potentially profiting from it – is
the new and value adding form of it.

Challenge in information research
Firstly there’s the vast amount of information that’s available to us
through various sources and channels today. If today’s students get
the task of researching all available resources for a certain subject
the list can get quite long…really really long actually. To boil
this sheer volume down to the essentials and identify the right bits
and pieces (as well as the reliable sources) is already a challenge.

Furthermore there is a new agility in how information develops.
Students are now asked to add the date on which the source was used as
a reference to a certain context. Simply because there is no guarantee
that reference or content will be an exact match a couple of months
later.

Corporations will be facing the same situation. The more information
and knowledge is stored and made accessible and the more collective
creation and development take effect the more difficult it will be to
ensure consistency and completeness.

Already employees sometimes spend between 25 and 40% of their time on
searching for information or people. Time that is simply not available
for productive tasks anymore and thereby becomes a threat to the
organisation’s ability to perform properly and reach its goals.

My take on it
The challenge historians are facing with the introduction of digital
media is similar to the ones companies are facing when it comes to the
management of their information and knowledge work force. Equipping
them with the right tools and platforms is one tiny step – the IT
step. But having the employees/users understand how to use it and
embrace the new opportunities is the key to success. Vast volume and
over-agility of information as well as the complexity of corresponding
management tools can scare people – emotionally. That fact has to be
taken into account if new ways of working and IT solutions are
introduced. In the design of the solution and the way it’s implemented
in the organisation.

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