While waiting to disembark the aircraft at a destination abroad recently, I mulled over some of my first trips abroad – sans the Internet. While still on the plane, I opened an e-mail app on my phone to search my archive for my car hire details, thereby making my trip landside a little less bumpy. Without the Internet, such a trivial action would be impossible.
Everyone can recite a similar tale, but I often wonder what it would take to enable a corporate to collectively recite a similar story. This might be something about beating a competitor, being first to market, or improving customer satisfaction. This would not be an action across or by one person, but across multiple people, business units and often system-generated events. An end goal easier imagined than implemented.
Of course, the corporate archive is not new, but its purpose has historically been for compliance or legal reasons – essentially the digital version of the corporate contracts archive. Even though this is difficult to achieve, the concept of the archive is morphing into something that should be there to enable productivity as well as address compliance.
The interactive archive is that tool which makes knowledge workers more productive within their working hours, wherever they happen to be. It helps you leverage historical learning, and drives competitive advantage. The interactive archive will not only consider e-mail, documents or records singularly, but all relevant data – structured and otherwise. Historically, this will have been consigned to separate data silos, but with processing power and storage available today, it’s possible to provide a more holistic search and productivity experience.
Given current technology, I will admit that I sometimes find it difficult to imagine how the Interactive Archive will be architected, especially if internal. I also know that storage and indexing tools, especially those available on the Internet, are improving at rates we only dreamed of a few years ago. Thus, the platform to deliver the interactive archive is likely to be online rather than internal.
Every CIO should be thinking of big data within their organisation. Many think of big data in the context of the Internet, but the mashing together of multiple corporate datasets, archives and information stores ultimately represents the big data metaphor.
In the creation of the interactive archive, every corporate dataset should be included. It may be difficult to see how different datasets could be combined, but creative thinking will be required for the knowledge workers of tomorrow. Big data is managed and indexed differently and will ultimately be able to work with incongruous data.
It’s appropriate to think of corporate data with a big data lens. It’s only these platforms, managing vast amounts of data, which have the ability, and capacity, to consider all the data silos of your organisation. Even if little value can be extracted from divergent data systems today, it’s highly likely that technology improvements in the future will see you deriving value from the data tomorrow. Expose as much data as possible to these platforms, and as technology improves, so will the value of your big data. And every step of the way, a little more of the interactive archive vision is materialised.
One should not forego security considerations, of course. Consider carefully the platform or vendor to which you expose your corporate history. Given the appropriate degree of investigation and due diligence, your data should be exposed to no less risk as if being managed by employees inside your organisation.
We recognise that some data cannot be exposed or risk being exposed. From time to time, the digital strong-room remains relevant. Remember, though, that it is difficult, if not impossible, to police all users and data and from time to time you will need to concede that the containment of company confidential data is left up to the employee.
Creating the interactive archive online does not mean dispensing with security protocol. Rather, a mechanism must be sought to extend if from within the company perimeter externally.
The interactive archive then comes with the added advantage that the experience can be exposed to all employees, even those away from the office visiting customers, suppliers and trading partners. Knowledge workers imagine a world where the interactive archive is accessible as email from a smartphone.
It’s often easy to reference an end state of productivity, citing the processing power available online and big data as important building blocks. While this is true, remember that for the organisation, this is a journey. Not all your data is ready to be incorporated into a big data archive. Start with the data that represents the lowest technological hurdles, and work outwards from there. Email and documents are often a good start, and just in those categories are likely to be numerous databases to consider.
The knowledge worker of tomorrow will be demanding such cross-platform, cross-data interactivity. These are people familiar with the experience at home, or at a coffee shop on their tablet. Corporate data systems, when leveraged effectively into the interactive archive, will provide for the same experience.
For more information contact Mimecast SA, +27 (0)11 555 5461, www.mimecast.co.za
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