Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Selling the Hole

First Ethernet Cable

Starting my own consulting business had led me to view my services in a different light, as a marketer. On one of my business courses I was asked, “are you selling drill bits or the hole?”
After spending some time in deep thought about my profession, I believe businesses want to find what they need, quickly. If my profession fails them on this critical need, the rest is moot.

I admit to some reservations about the Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles (GARP) ©. I worry we are missing the boat (or the hole) by focusing on documentation. I continue to worry that we will not engage our customers enough in its design. If we only consult with ourselves, we will end up with a beautiful product, elegant, complete and only valued within our own community.

One of my strengths is a habit of “jumping the fence” and talking to people in other disciplines. I have my Information Technology (IT) buddies, my librarian friends, purchasers, facility managers, dentists, and entrepreneurs. They broaden my perspective on what information should be doing for them. I feel the pain of their unexpressed guilt if they are behind in their filing. Not that they can hide it. Just as a dentist reads the roadmap of inattention in a person’s mouth, I can gauge the state of a records program with a quick glance around the office and on the shared drives.

One of my IT buddies tells me that we (as Information Management professionals) need to de-mystify the process. Business managers do not have the time to absorb our terminology and methodologies. They need quick, one-page guides to get them to where they need to go. So I set about drafting some tip sheets. I quickly realized that it takes ten times as long to write something simply as it does to go the long way around. I also acknowledged that before there can be a simple process there needs to be some fundamental principles on how the whole system works. Like documenting who is responsible. Which led me back to GARP©

Now that I’ve come full circle, I figure the trick might be to treat GARP© as a necessary means to an end – secure management and fast finding of information for the business user. If the ultimate goal is kept in sight, this could be a valuable tool for the Information Manager and business.

I’ve included a picture of the world’s first Ethernet cable to show how demand forces simplicity. The first cable was engineered (over-engineered) to protect signals from all interference. However, the cable was nearly an inch thick! It could not be run for long distances, and it did not take corners very well. The new standard (Cat 5) compromises shielding to take care of these other factors. When building the fundamental principles that information management stands on, let’s be sure we engineer it for what is fundamentally needed and no more.