Today, I took a course on information management fundamentals and decided to blog about some of my observations. With about a dozen students, there was plenty of interesting discussions that supplemented the course content. Advocating for information management and the range of occupations that make up the field were two of the topics that struck me as particularly interesting. We also had an interesting exercise in the taxonomy of grocery stores which pointed out how taxonomy can be used for commercial gain and how it is tailored to serve the needs of a given audience (e.g. a grocery near a university campus is likely to make fast food items easy to find).
Most classic and compelling justifications of information management (and its relative, knowledge management) focus on risk and disaster. Failure to manage archives resulted in NASA losing some of its 1969 Moon tapes, for example. In a corruption trial in British Columbia, the destruction of email records (which should have been put on hold due to legal proceedings) caused a world of grief. These cases are compelling and dramatic, but I would surmise that they are also rare. Another piece of the argument needs to be the positive benefits of managing information such as more efficient use of staff time or the potential to make new connections with other staff who have valuable knowledge. Then again, I have come across some economic research that claims that people are more motivated by the fear of loss (loss adversion) than the prospect of gains (endowment effect – people value what they currently have over potential gains), so perhaps focusing on the loss does make sense.
People working in information management come to the field with a number of different job titles: information architect, taxonomist, metadata specialist, privacy officer and more. Taxonomy – a system of naming and organizing things into groups that share similar characteristics – has recently been booming, but this field may be in decline with better technology. Business analysts, on the other hand, is a new and growing field. However, some brief research into the business analysis field shows that it is dominated by those with expertise in either finance or information technology. If one already has deep knowledge of those fields, then business analysis could be a good way to develop one’s career. I think the next frontier is privacy work. That sub-field is still very new, but as privacy related scandals continue to pile up and threaten the credibility of governments and companies, addressing this need can only become more important.