What moving house can teach us about Information Management

Posted by Leadent Solutions on May 1, 2014

You often hear it said that moving house is up there with some of life’s more stressful experiences.  As my move is imminent and a few others in the office have also recently moved I thought I’d take some time to share some of my observations and the parallels I can see with Information Management, both in terms of lessons learned and which practices work well.

We can’t keep everything!

An obvious parallel is the temptation to keep all of our possessions – something that anyone with ‘hoarder’ tendencies will be prone to do.  Although I am fortunate to be moving to somewhere with a bit more space I don’t just want to ‘lift and shift’ all of our things.  In the information management world this was a common path that many organisations took when implementing document and content management systems.  As storage costs were becoming seemingly cheaper, the temptation to migrate all content from distributed file shares and legacy systems was all too apparent, especially when faced with the alternative task of reviewing the content and establishing systems of records with defined retention and disposition actions.  Let’s face it – many organisations thought that this was too hard and the short term option of cheap storage too easy to ignore.  How many organisations that implemented an ECM system in the last ten years or so are actively managing content through a records lifecycle process?  Is the RM module just another in a long list of features and functionality that you have but are not really using?

The problem with this approach is that the effects are now being felt.  The exponential growth of information since these systems were implemented are resulting in a higher than anticipated total cost of ownership with the need to continually expand hardware (or even cloud) storage to meet the increasing growth.  The implementation of an ECM was really an opportunity to baseline an organisation’s content; to focus on the most important information; to de-duplicate; and, destroy unwanted/low value content.  Sure, the rate of information growth would still be pronounced, but it wouldn’t have been starting with the same volume and the established processes of records retention.  Disposition would’ve kept a check on the growth, ensuring that content repositories are leaner and contain greater proportions of high value content that is also easier to search and access.

So, will I take a similar approach when the removals van arrives later this week?  I certainly hope not.  Keeping everything would be as unsustainable for me as it would for any organisation.  With a growing family, the amount of ‘stuff’ that we accumulate will rapidly increase.  If I do nothing and choose to ‘lift and shift’ everything to the new house I estimate that I’ll have to move again within 2 years.  This is certainly something that I can neither afford nor want to do!  There’s something appealing about having more space, literally being able to move around more freely and make more efficient use of the space, making sure I have the things I frequently use close at hand but equally the really important and valuable items stored somewhere appropriate to their frequency of use.

Getting things in order

Much in the same way that embarking upon an information management project is an opportunity to review and audit the current content stored and managed in the organisation, so to, is moving house and having a ‘clear out’.  We’ve been sifting our old boxes stored in the cellar – destroying (well, recycling) the old papers we no longer need.  We’ve had a clear out of our wardrobes – de-duplicating the clothes we no longer wear or favour (by donating them to charity).  There’s even been the occasional moment of ‘discovery’ whereby we’ve found things we didn’t realise we had but which are useful and valuable to bring out of the cellar and make more easily accessible.

We’ve tried to continue this one room at a time, breaking it up into manageable chunks.  As a result we now have a much better view of how much content we have, where and how it’s stored, and what we want to do with it.

The big move

With the ‘analysis’ of our things and some last minute ‘disposition’ actions now complete, we’ve been able to put together a high level inventory of our things.  Again this is room by room and will help to inform where we’ll store and how we’ll manage them in the new house.  And whilst in the information management world, this content might be enriched by the use of metadata to label and classify the content to provide extra context, the loose parallel for our move is the booklet of labels that we’ll by sticking to various boxes and items.  These will remind us of the ‘HEAVY’ boxes and ‘FRAGILE’ items, and also display the suggested location for storage in the new house.

Does any of this sound familiar to you?  Are there other parallels that you know of with how organisations manage and store their information?  Or do you have any other tips that I can use for my house move?