Human Beings, like all mammals and most living organisms exhibit one distinctive trait – bilateral symmetry. You know – 2 eyes, 2 ears, 2 arms, 2 legs, and so on. But lets consider for a moment the human brain, which has 2 distinct hemispheres. As it turns out, both are necessary for our survival. While the left hemisphere is concerned with managing sequences of actions, the right is concerned with providing the necessary “context” for evaluating and prioritizing what comes next. When you think about it, one is pretty useless without the other.
A similar observation can be made with regard to records and content management. Consider the process of promoting a simple document to the status of ‘record’ so that it can be associated with a retention formula. Is it enough to look only at the document name? Not likely. Typically, we need some additional metadata to determine if the record declaration makes sense, and that metadata is what defines its ‘context’.
Is the document part of an ongoing project whose retention period is specified in a separate file plan? Does the document contain ‘protected’ or ‘classified’ terms that dictate how it should be handled? Was it created by a ‘controlled’ class of users? Has it already been declared as a record in another system?
The contextual analysis is like having a separate hemisphere of the brain, constantly looking for different ways to associate content with other objects and processes in the surrounding environment. ….Workflows, automatic tagging tools, enhanced search are part of the pantheon of tools employed to define the ‘context’.
It’s not enough to simply declare that a document is now an official record – you also have to factor in the context, which is often defined by the current state of other related documents and processes. The same holds true for record disposition, holds and e-discovery.
Content management is not a technology-only solution, because we need that context in order to evaluate and prioritize related processes. And just like most other living organisms, we cannot survive without it.
In our newly crafted ‘digital universe’, do we have what it takes to survive? I’m starting to wonder if the increasing pace of technological change coupled with the ever increasing amount of information needed just to answer the simple question “Where am I?” might ultimately make this a moot point.
Landru! Save us!