As M-19-21 Deadlines Loom, Many Agencies Lost in a Sea of Chaos
We live in a time of exploding data and information flows, which are overwhelming our ability to effectively manage — and the worst is still to come. As agencies struggle to transition to digital government, most have an Achilles’ Heel that threatens even the most well-intentioned digital transformation initiatives. That vulnerability is out-of-control information.
We are facing a tsunami of information, and it just keeps getting bigger and bigger. We are in the digital age, but there are some agencies that are still dealing with paper. Many agencies are suffocating under the weight of paper, while simultaneously trying to embrace digital transformation. And they’re not sure how to get there.
In a digital age, information is the core asset creating constituent value; information is critical to how public sector organizations deliver value to constituents and taxpayers. This was clearly demonstrated during the pandemic, when agencies suddenly realized that unless they could rapidly digitize their processes, they could no longer operate.
Developing an approach to address this vulnerability is the fundamental challenge of the digital era. On average, organizations believe the volume of incoming information will grow four-fold in just the next 2-3 years, and they are realizing that the old, manual, paper-based approaches to information management no longer work.
Basing digital governance upon concepts like file folders alone will never be sufficient. Something needs to change. Without a strategy, government organizations will slowly sink under the accumulated weight of their exponentially growing digital landfills.
But the challenge is more complicated than just more data. The problem is that as technologies have spread everywhere, the type of information that must be managed is changing as well. Some of the incoming information is still in the form of pure data, streaming off of web interactions, connected devices, and mission-critical applications. Managing this structured data is a challenge, but one with which organizations have some familiarity. Organizations need to consider how these lessons from the world of data can be applied to exploding volumes of unstructured and semi-structured information.
Managing unstructured information like email, text messages, Office application files, images, and videos, and semi-structured information like forms and invoices is still a problem for most agencies. These types of information are just different from data. They carry greater compliance and litigation risk. They are difficult to manage, search, and protect. They are unorganized and require large amounts of storage. Applying manual governance methodologies based on the file cabinet have proven a failure. The problem is a significant one — unstructured and semi-structured information represent 50-60% of the rising wave of information coming into and being created by our organizations.