Here’s a question for those working in organizations with the responsibility of promoting work, winning awards, and creating content:
How long would it take a new employee on your team to perform these 10 queries?:
- Find all photos taken by a particular photographer in the last five years.
- Find all past documentation used in applying for an annual award submittal that celebrates your organization’s most successful event.
- Find all the PowerPoint lecture files used externally by all staff for presentations in the last year.
- Change the new wording of your mission statement in all of your documentation.
- Find all past marketing materials that mention an initiative deployed 10 years ago.
- Find all photos of office events that happened during the Christmas holiday.
- Set an “internal only” restriction to all organization photos that feature your project in development.
- Find all promotional material geared to prospective members vs. current members.
- Find a list of all proposals you submitted in a particular region.
- Find all photos that feature red elements to celebrate Valentine’s Day.
If you identified at least three or more events that would take more than five minutes to perform, then let me explain to you some common information management practices that can automate these queries. Alternatively, If you find that these queries could be performed in a timely manner at your organization, then GOOD NEWS- you’re likely utilizing these information management practices.
But first, a word on the significance of finding this information in a timely manner, illustrated in a scenario. Its February 13th and you want to get a very thoughtful social media post out tomorrow to kick off a Valentine’s Day campaign. Imagine being able to type the word “red” into a search bar and getting results for all photos in your collection that contains a “red” element. Now imagine the common alternative of having to go through all of your folders and subfolders in the server/network drive instead and browsing thumbnails for hours until you’re satisfied that your search was exhaustive. In one scenario the entire exercise is completed in 15 minutes and you now have the rest of the day to attend to other initiatives. However, in scenario two you spend the whole morning browsing folders hoping that your effort reaps some benefits.
So how can information management practices enable us to navigate our document and image collections in a timely manner?
- Taxonomy / Metadata schema. The first major strategy in querying collections for the desired results is using metadata, or data about each record [such as a photo, word doc, or PDF]. It’s all about assigning values and information to each record to give it further meaning. All this information can be leveraged when searching a whole collection. In a typical Windows file setup, fields like ‘date created’ and ‘created by’ are metadata fields that can be used to filter and sort a search. Metadata can be very powerful when organizations customize it to suit their exact needs.
- Digital Repositories using document management systems, digital asset management, or a similar database. If you use one of these systems, then you likely can create your own metadata schema to help best describe your records as well as how you would want to navigate them. If you want to discern, for instance, if a document is a report, agenda, memo, or letter, you can create a field called “document type” and allow the ability to assign a type. Document management systems are excellent solutions for organizing large collections of documents in a concise manner. Sharepoint is a very popular product. Digital Asset Management systems are most often used for visual assets such as photos, and allow the user to be able to find the right images at the right place and the right time.
- Good file naming conventions. These can be designed to have many built in descriptors to aid in searches. Date, document type, project #, etc. can be very valuable additions to speeding up a query. The only drawback is that they need to be enforced!
Undertaking any of these three strategies will certainly speed up your information retrieval. More importantly, implementing best practices such as file naming and metadata schemes brings order to the chaos, and furthermore allows more people the ability to access the collections with ease. It’s very dangerous when only one person in an organization knows how to perform a crucial operation, and elements like digital asset management systems and smart search bars are great at bringing transparency to important office resources. Additionally, those in the marketing and communication disciplines increasingly need to be specialists in content management for their organization. Partnerships with information professionals is a huge advantage.