Information – You Can See the Forest through the Trees
To get out of the 100+ degree temperatures in Las Vegas, last week I decided to go North to cool off. I was staying at our cabin in Heber, Utah with no cell phone service, no internet and no cable TV. You know my kids were going through withdrawal. We had electricity, heat and a land line, the basic necessities. It’s as close to camping as we have done for a couple of teenage girls.
As I sat outside to ponder ideas to write, I noticed lots of very tall pine trees, about 100 feet high. There was also a small river that runs through the property. I couldn’t help compare this scene to traditional records management and the issues we face today.
Silos Of Information
To me, the trees reminded me of the “silos of information” within organizations (typically departments controlling their data). The river represented the network allowing the continued growth of the silos but only in one direction, never sharing with another. Does this resemble your organization? Lack of sharing and silo’s of data are so common in many organizations. Data is an asset and represents power. So did the trees.
As I looked at the health of the trees, I couldn’t help but compare it to the metadata in the silos. You could see over time that things changed. There were some low dead branches that represented data that maybe should have been purged and some unhealthy branches that could have represented poor data that no one could find. Some trees were fragmented by weather and split while there were other trees that looked very healthy. To me, this represented the change in staff and their unknowing effects to make data usable for the future without consideration or any attempt to “migrate” the legacy information. There are other silos of information that were simplistic in their original form and continue to be usable and healthy today.
Retention and Metadata
The trees near the cabin are so similar to so many legacy record implementations. They represent gallant efforts but, unfortunately, segmented data. The condition of the trees were in random locations and represented the lack of structure and policy for records retention and metadata. The lack of maintenance and enforcement of a policy (if there was one) allowed the data to become fragmented or unavailable. As technology becomes increasingly better we can use it to make the health of our archives a stable foundation. If we did not take the time to “plan” the migration of our data, the “next generation of users” coming may change things to meet their needs, unknowingly, creating a rift in the data.
The concept here is looking to the past to know where you are going in the future. When we live in our own silo of data, we have no idea of what exists beyond our own belief until we leave that world. A forest of paper gone digital is still a forest, just in another form.