Data Relevance

We have a growing, fundamental challenge with data relevance in the Information Age. Data is data in any form - digital or paper text, audio, video, etc. As information workers, our effectiveness depends on our proficient use of relevant information. Even the best search systems struggle with relevance. This post contains tips for managing data toward improving data relevance.

  • Work - Improving data relevance requires work. Technology will help, but you need to work at it. Organization does not just happen. For example, work at keeping folder and files clean. Old files are not going to delete themselves. Most tools, such as Microsoft Word, have features that facilitate data organization and management. You need to make time to learn and use these features.
  • Responsibility - You need to take responsibility for information. Even in shared, collaborative environments people shy away from responsibility. We expect someone else will delete an old file or update incorrect information in a document.
  • Retention - It has become easier and less expensive to retain data. Retaining data seems the safe course of action. Simply discarding obsolete information such as files or documents improves data relevance. A common problem is the retention of draft documents. This leads to uncertainty regarding the relevant document version.
  • Organization - For effective collaboration, we need to think of organization in broad terms. We have bad habits that stem from personal computing. If you work in an organization, I suggest there is no file or information that is personal. It may be confidential but not personal. Therefore store and organize folders, files, etc. for sharing. Organize based on the organization not your personal filing system. Collectively develop organization standards and follow them. Common storage infrastructure and information organization avoids duplication.
  • Consumption - Our consumption of information needs [self] control. We consume information in many forms and through many channels. The web and email are channels most people find difficult to manage. For example, consumption of information through news sites can be addictive. It is my practice to avoid generic news sites such as cnn.com. Instead I rely on news feeds (i.e. RSS) to manage and direct my consumption of information. With fine tuning, news feeds are very effective method of consuming news. Email management is a constant battle. Using email filters and rules creates efficiencies. Avoiding the use of email programs as a filing cabinet makes a difference. With each email you receive you may have an opportunity to train the sender on effective email communications.