By Daniel W. Rasmus, Serious Insights
The other day a colleague called and asked about the best way to find a concept within an enterprise document repository.
After discussion, an enterprise repository was a bit of a stretch. What she meant was find the concept across the entire enterprise, regardless of where it was stored.
The target concept consisted of a set of management principles. In the current incarnation, the enterprise touted seven principles. After working with a number of consultants, it had honed its principles to five. The goal was to find all references to the seven principles and replace those references with the five.
I informed my colleague that there was no way to accomplish that task completely, even with the most sophisticated knowledge management system. I shared the following reasoning:
A reference problem quickly follows the discovery problem. Just finding the concept is not enough. The documents that reference the concept may reference it in several places and in different ways. A concept may be referenced in the text, and it may be referenced in a link (as a URL embedded in text that may not directly reference the content of the link). The concept may also be referenced in a footnote or endnote or perhaps in an illustration or table. While the “full official name” of it may be referenced for highly curated documents, the concept is just as likely to be referenced in some other way in less formal content.
The ambiguity of references makes it impossible to discover all the instances through search. The search set will likely prove incomplete in that all of the ways the concept was referenced were not maintained, and therefore, some documents will escape discovery because they reference the concept in a unique way.
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Daniel W. Rasmus, the author of Listening to the Future, is a strategist and industry analyst who helps clients put their future in context. Rasmus uses scenarios to analyze trends in society, technology, economics, the environment, and politics in order to discover implications used to develop and refine products, services and experiences. His latest book, Management by Design proposes an innovative new methodology for the design workplace experiences. Rasmus’s thoughts about the future of work have appeared recently in Chief Learning Officer Magazine, Government eLearning!, KMWorld and TabletPC. A wildly popular article on CIO,com titled, 10 Lessons from Angry Birds That Can Make You a Better CIO, went viral on the Internet.