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What can information professionals learn from cats?

Updated: Sep 6, 2020

I wrote some years ago a blog post about what information professionals can learn from cats, and below is an updated posts based on emerging new best practices for Office 365 and beyond.

Musti III "George Costanza"

Herding cats is not an easy task, and I think we face similar challenges as information professionals. The convergence of mobile, social, cloud and big data is creating a "perfect storm" for information management, and trying to get knowledge workers to follow corporate policies and procedures is starting to feel like herding cats.

We all want to leverage information as an asset, but we struggle just to ensure compliance. Below are 6 important information management lessons I learned from our two cats – Stella (a better name for her would be “Chuck Norris"), and Musti III (a better name for her would be “George Costanza”…).

  1. They do as they want – don’t expect them to do as you tell them. They will do whatever makes sense for them. Forget the idea of relying on them to identify, capture, and classify correct records across your organization. Stop trying to use paper principles for the digital era. Find instead ways to automate information compliance and protection.

  2. Accept that they will bring back stuff – cats love to bring back dead (or almost dead) animals that they have captured or killed. Knowledge workers want to do their job as best as possible, and they are now able to get the technology they need with the help of cloud computing and "shadow IT". We need to find ways to protect sensitive information wherever it may go.

  3. Feed and nurture them – plan ongoing education to ensure they don’t get you in trouble. They think you are there to support them, not to tell them what to do. Try to make information management compliance and security inherent and transparent to the knowledge workers.

  4. Don’t pet them them the wrong way – they have claws! Engage them how they prefer to be engaged, not the way you prefer to do it. Ensure your information governance program provides value to knowledge workers, not just your organization. Improve information availability, completeness, and trustworthiness to provide value.

  5. Clean out their kitty litter – it will get messy if you don’t clean up after them. They won’t do it, and it is your task to ensure that redundant, outdated, and trivial (ROT) information is safely disposed of. Research by found that 25% of stored information has value, 5% are records, 2% has legal value, and the remaining 68% may be digital junk. Find therefore ways to automate the disposal of ROT.

  6. Accidents will happen - plan for it. Opening up your corporate information will increase your risks, but improve employee engagement and knowledge transfer. Ensure staff knows what is expected from them with executive direction, policies, procedures, and ongoing education. Ensure you detect non-compliance with audits and monitoring. Ensure you continuously improve systems and processes, but also that you enforce and react to non–compliance.

Stella "Chuck Norris"

I was once told that you don’t really have cats, - they have you. You are there to support users as an information professional, not just to tell them what to do. Microsoft Advanced Data Governance is an opportunity to automate information governance and protection. This is "compliance by design" - workers can focus on doing their job with automated compliance. Feel free to contact me if you want more information about this.

Check out the following blog posts:

Information management strategy template

Advanced Data Governance for Records Management in Office 365 and beyond

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