Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Information Management and Internet Marketing - Essentials for the Bad Economy

It’s a pretty straightforward economic reality hitting local and regional businesses right now - how to drastically reduce marketing and advertising expenses, while continuing to attract new customers and grow revenues. In any economy, good or bad, it is absolutely essential that your business, service and products continue to be represented and advertised in public media - in order to attract new, paying customers. This is Information Management 101 - but in the public domain.

Read more about this Business Internet Marketing and Information Management topic, and why Internet Marketing, SEO, and Online Marketing and Advertising are topics worthy of considerable attention and exercise for all businesses right now, large and small.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Records Management without Information Management

A recent Op Ed piece in FCW highlights the fact that Records Management responsibilities in the Federal Government have been abdicated by half of those responsible, namely GSA. While NARA focuses on records management policies, schedules and the science of digital preservation (i.e. the "Risk Management" side of the equation, as FCW asserts), GSA was ostensibly charged with the Information Management side of the equation (the "economy and efficiency" aspects) - i.e. how do agencies, as a practical, tactical matter, create processes and leverage technology to actually enforce records management policies and populate the government's record catalogue with well-formed records and metadata? Regardless of whether the records should be preserved indefinitely (i.e. by NARA) or not?

There certainly exist enough policy guidance, solution guidance and eRecords expertise within the Federal community to attack the records management problem, as well as legions of Enterprise Content Management vendors who include records management as part of their suite of tools. The biggest hurdles, however, typically are "organizational change management" and "business priorities".

From an organizational perspective, it's a very difficult trick to modify processes, leveraging existing tools within existing organizational structures and incentive frameworks to convince employees and contractors to habitually recognize, define and post records vs. non-records. From a business priority perspective, it's kind of like health insurance - records management technology investments are made to protect against anticipated legal risks to the organization, so the amount of prioritized risk associated with inadequate recordkeeping drives the level of investment. But many organizations don't feel they'll be "sick" any time soon, or the degree of risk is simply too low to bother with.

I haven't seen many instances in government where a very clear business case for automated records management capabilities was created that held up in the prioritizing of business and mission objectives - to the extent that it became a clear, proactive priority. Usually the business case amounts to a reactive procurement of just-adequate capabilities in response to policy investigation or enforcement actions. And every good Information Manager understands that without a good Business Case, strong Information Management programs and governance are nearly impossible to create or measure.

So the Op Ed piece is right on, in that there's no real body of responsibility manning the shop from an Information Management perspective for dealing with records - but there's also not much guidance, oversight or actual working examples of change management frameworks or business case models to support, either.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Knowledge Workers 2.0

Here's a very motivating video about the role of Information Management professionals intersecting with the discipline of Knowledge Management and Web 2.0.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Integrated IT Governance Processes for IT Organizations

The processes involved in managing and governing an IT system lifecycle can be extremely complicated and are frequently uncoordinated - these include governance processes associated with capital planning and investement reviews, acquisition management, portfolio management and enterprise architecture governance (which includes Information Management and Data Governance). If the various governance processes, governance bodies and ultimately the decision-makers in an organization aren't coordinated - IT programs are doomed to marginal return on investment or significant delays, cost over-runs....you name it.

Blackstone Technology Group's expertise in this area, developed over years of IT service consulting to Commerical and Government CIOs, IT Managers and Financial Control Officers, is now packaged in a solution offering termed "IT Governance Process Integration". This is the first end-to-end services consulting offering in the market that enables integrated alignment and coordination of ALL IT governance processes involved in procuring and maintaining an IT system investment.

Read more about Blackstone's IT Governance Process Integration offering...

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Digital Asset Optimization Maturity

"Information Management" is a very broad term, and many consultancies and standards groups have tried over the years to wrestle it into ontologic submission - categorizing the subjects and domains most often along the lines of product release, availability of subject matter experts (SMEs), or the Enterprise Architecture model of the day.

Taking a view of Information Management from the angle of "Digital Assets", I've created a view of the myriad of subjects and topics that are relevant to delivering (whether it's your stuff or someone else's) actual, monetized value on digital information you generate. Digital Assets are defined as instances or packages of digital content that are delivered as information to consumers, with the express intent of deriving monetary value. Much of your digital content may not end up described this way - i.e. directly targeted at generating revenue, for example internal company handbooks or photos. I will make the case that for most organizations, there's a veritable treasure trove awaiting discovery and leverage - of digital information that certainly can and should be packaged, managed and optimized as digital assets.

This view begins in the very well-known, though still complex domain of "Enterprise Content Management" (ECM), where the digital asset is first born, shaped and staged for its life - whether restricted to private consumers or "in the wild". As the view depicts, this stage of maturity around recognizing, catgorizing and preparing to manage your digital assets internally is absolutely essential - but obviously only the first step to realizing value.

Much more to come in the next posts...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Internet Reputation Management - for Government

A really great article on Internet Reputation Management concepts for government was recently posted at FCW, entitled "Who is Watching Your Online Image"? In it, Andy Beal speaks to the cautious but imperative initiave of public service agencies to extend eGovernment initiative into the Social Media space, most especially the blogosphere. But this extension of services and participation in the online dialogue is double-sided; on the one hand, this may offer great advantages to the government agency and its constituents, on the other hand, it needs to be carefully controlled from an online reputation management perspective - though government blogging and social media participation is precisely what may really help, in cases where the agency's reputation or position is besmirched.

Here's another recent take on Internet Identity and Reputation Management, from Fox 5 News in DC - more from a consumer and business perspective, than government. But the tenets and advice still apply, even more so.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Information Management and Marketing

While the domain of "Information Management" is well known to extend to both internal and externally-distributed information assets, it's not so obvious that this domain requires a certain degree of Marketing & Communications expertise. Information governance processes that extend outside the corporate boundary are typically for purposes of compliance, protocol, or other business agreement - though in the past few years it's become more and more necessary to apply information governance techniques TO Internet (or Intranet) Marketing efforts, and leverage Internet Marketing techniques FOR delivering information governance.

There are two binding elements between Internet Marketing and Information Management. The first are the search engines and their automated indexers (i.e. "bots") - Internet Marketing techniques leveraged to influence search engine results (i.e. Search Engine Optimization/Marketing) should very much reflect corporate governance of externally-managed or monitored information assets. In order to mitigate risks and derive maximum value from content distributed on the Internet, as part of any traditional Information Management strategy, Internet Marketing techniques are necessary.

The second binding element is the "Web 2.0" movement. While an organization can to a large degree control the use of its own information, as it exists within its managed governance processes and properties, it can't necessary control how others reuse, paraphrase, comment on or otherwise generate new information that points back to the original. Again, Internet Marketing techniques known as "Social Media Optimization/Marketing", aimed at controlling or at least influencing the generation of collateral, related information, can be a useful tool in extending corporate information management governance.

Below is a simple diagram that trys to depict where the various Information Management and Internet Marketing domains would come into play, under a holistic view of a corporation's information ecosystem. (A following post will go into more detail regarding each of the domains). For a publically-facing enterprise striving to establish the most comprehensive Information Management governance processes, policies and outcomes it can, Internet Marketing capabilities and activities are absolutely essential. For the newer breeds of Search Engine/Social Media Managers - there's a growing demand for a very solid foundation in traditional information management and governance engineering.

Information Management and Internet Marketing

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Federal Government Social Networking and Enterprise Data

I recently participated in a very interesting discussion about mechanisms and issues for leveraging external (i.e. outside the firewall) social networking tools in the Federal Government; for example, browsing and executing searches in Facebook, using Flickr for socializing and recieving comments on photographs, and participating in "open" blog discussions.

While this isn't necessarily a new issue, and many agencies are gradually enabling "Government 2.0" for both their constituents and employees/contractors (more quickly in the Intelligence arena), the rapid growth and pressure to utilize these tools for mission purposes is unmistakable and requires more rapid, cross-government address (or at least really well thought-out and vetted models for experimentation, leverage, best practice development). Commercial businesses are generally ahead of the curve (from government) in addressing this need, and "Information Governance 2.0" is fast becoming an absolute necessity as an overlay on top of existing "Data Governance" programs.

In a past post, I mentioned the recent adoption of a new DHS directive concerning "Information Sharing" - but this addressed "Enterprise Data" from a very secure and compartmentalized perspective (i.e. DHS itself), and not necessarily from the "Enterprise" of the entire Homeland Security Community of Interest (COI - public and private). While government enterprise data management and governance strategies are certainly advancing rapidly, due in large part to the DOD and Federal Enterprise Architecture efforts of the past years, these strategies don't yet consistently include information and information-sharing processes that cross the government-public boundaries. As more and more success in information-sharing is derived from cross-domain and cross-organization socialization, using Web 2.0 information-handling and manipulation tools, a new category of "Enterprise Data" will need to be governed - i.e. "Open Community of Interest Enterprise Data". These are subjects, conversations, expertise identification and information products generated specifically as a result of open collaboration by the Enterprise, co-mingling Enterprise-sourced data with open source data.

By "Enterprise-sourced Data", I also don't mean data that was intended all along to be produced for public consumption; rather, data that wasn't intended initially for public consumption, perhaps because it was organizationally perceived as having little value outside the close community of practitioners and mission owners who use it. "Enterprise-sourced Data" in this sense would basically consist of government records, i.e. the raw evidence of the activities of government, put forth for the community with which to create collaborative, innovative value (most likely unplanned or un-envisioned by the original "stewards").

Basically, citizens are saying "show us some stuff we've not seen before, and we'll mix it up with stuff we have to create some brand new concoctions". Federal employees are, likewise, saying "I'd like to throw some raw ingredients into the big pot, and harness some crowd-sourcing energy to expose new uses for the material I'm producing, for all to benefit from".

Commercial businesses aren't necessarily very far along in explictly defining, for purposes of Information Governance, what constitutes "external" Enterprise Data vs. "internal" (i.e. what raw ingredients can be thrown in the communal pot). There are laws and corporate policies for particular kinds of data and information exchanges, to be sure, but for most information that exists in social discourse without explicit categorization (how do you categorize a blog entry that says "hey, that cat I saw this morning, its coloring might be useful for highlighting this area of our website") there are only general guidelines, such as in "Sun's Guidelines for Public Discourse".

A lot, however, is left in these guidelines to some degree of professional interpretation, experience-based decisions, and simple trust. While this latitude and trust may be good enough for many businesses (it's just money, after all), in many cases the government's mission is too sensitive (we're talking lives at stake) to rely on "guidelines" - vs. explict and automated policy.

Once we get closer to a broad acknowledgement, definition and model for "Open COI Enterprise Data" in the C2G paradigm, this should help address and enable the growing need for the government to engage and utilize "open source" social networking tools, for public benefit. Start by examining your data governance program, and trying to extend it to information that doesn't yet exist, but would be created, should your data be shared outside the firewall and pounced on by Web 2.0-equipped constituents.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Which Search Engine to Focus On, Publishing and Marketing our Digital Content?

Just about every day, I use Google - probably at least 20-30 times a day. I'm not alone, obviously, as by many measures Google is the most utilized search engine on the Internet. There are others, of course - even Google points this out in its analytics results. But which ones are best for what kind of tasks, and what kind of people use each? (The diagram in this post isn't mine, but has been distributed about the web for some time...).

From a pure organic Internet Marketing perspective, your organization's website really should focus on page ranks in Google - both for the volume of search traffic probable (since Google's indexing reach is so large, and their paid content distribution is so broad), and the fact that Google's results are very tied into the overall context of the Internet and relationships among online content, including websites, blogs, social media, discussions, wikis, documents, etc. Google is also leveraged as the core index behind other, 3rd-party search engines like AOL and Netscape).

It's apparent, however, that MSN and Yahoo search are much more focused on the specific content and relevance of the actual webpage, vs. the webpage's popularity or connectedness to others. This may be why, in pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns targeting consumer products (i.e. people looking for specific items), it's typical to get much better results (i.e. "clicks") with a Yahoo campaign, while PPC campaigns focused on generating "buzz", exposure or simply large increases of broad-based traffic (i.e. those searching for information, guidance, resesarch) do better with Google.

Persons surfing the Internet using search engines do have a choice, but typically gravitate towards one or the other based on the kind of "Internet Information Consumer" they are, and have been. Don't use the Internet much, but want recommendations and guidance? Try Ask.com or Altavista. Are you a real newshound, with a predilection towards online portals and email
provided by a provider like MSN or Yahoo? You'll probably use their search tools most. Really into comparison-shopping and deals? You'll probably start with Google, but may also know to use meta-aggregators like Dogpile (which aggregates paid ads along with organic) or Mamma.com. More experienced Internet professionals, looking to focus in on particular topics might use tools offering advanced categorization and analytics, such as Vivisimo ("Clusty") or Surfwax. For those looking for opinion or perspective on particular topics, the best places to visit are sites with Web 2.0 feedback technology, that focus on the topic (or have specific sections). Flickr's an example of a place to find recommended or popular photographs of specific subjects.

Here's a real good index of Search Engine tools to use, for particular purposes. Note it includes not only pure search engines, but pre-built directories with search built in.

The point of this topic for organizations and businesses, is to know your customer, and understand how your digital assets (i.e. websites, documents, blogs, comments, articles, ebooks, etc.) are managed. Digital content destined for publishing and distribution on the Internet, to be indexed by search engines or commented on by readers, should be carefully organized, managed, monitored and tracked for maximum effect. By carefully monitoring how your content is used and what others do with it, it's easier to create a marketing plan that's correctly targeted to the right search engines and audiences. Focusing on Google may get you great traffic, but it may not be the traffic you're interested in.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Information Management and Sharing Policy

A new "Enterprise Data Management Policy" was signed this week within the Homeland Security Department - to those unconcerned with the business and technology of information management, this won't create a stir...but to those "fighting the good fight" across the Federal Government information-sharing and management parochial boundaries, it's a valuable new tool, at least 2 years in the making.

In essence, the Directive, administered by the DHS CIO, outlines the department's policy with respect to sharing, contributing and leveraging wherever possible Enterprise data, and the Enterprise data management procedures and assets made available through the EDMO (Enterprise Data Management Office). Having lived through many of the difficulties associated with sharing and reusing data between Federal components, agencies and departments, with respect to policy differences, metadata and semantic disagreements, security classification issues, or simply reluctance to participate and share, this Directive and the work that went into it is truly a sea change for this sector of our industry.

The Directive by itself doesn't necessary accelerate or improve information management solution implementations or associate business and mission outcomes - but it gives some teeth to the sincere efforts of information management professionals and public servants, business data stewards and IT governance managers in seeking to facilitate their efforts through consistent, collaborative application of Public and Federal Information Management standards.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Information Management and Local Social Media

To start things off, here's a locally interesting Government 2.0 story that kicked off 2008, where a local government official complains via email about a real estate blog's veracity, demands material be removed, and refuses to "respond via the blog" - thereby provoking, as we understand all too readily in the Internet Marketing and Social Media industry, a firestorm of comment and much broader exposure of his unfortunate position.

Information Management, as an IT discipline to care about and pay attention to, includes not only the information you and your organization generate within your "domain", but also the information you, your organization, and everyone else generates on the Internet regarding your virtual domain.

Welcome to Information Management Consulting

This blog will focus on many subject areas regarding Information Management Consulting