As we continue easing our way into 2019 the media cycles through its annual New Year New You, a litany of advice on: dieting, saving, relationships, and decluttering your life, amplified this year by the new Netflix series on Marie Kondo’s approach to sparking joy through tidying. 

A few years ago I saw ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ glimmering upon the bookshop shelves. Could it be true? Were the long-awaited cleaning spells from fairy tales shared? Did the book hold enchantments to chant while circling widdershins in the moonlight? Alas, the illusion was soon dispelled. Though charming, the underlying KonMari method is one familiar to information professionals. One of our specialist skills is categorising content (such as information, records, knowledge), assessing its intrinsic value, categorising it, assigning its retention period, and either storing it in tiers based on frequency of access, or disposing of it with a cursethanks.

While magical cleaning spells may still elude us, what can we apply from ‘the life changing magic of tidying up’ to information management?

A simple approach might be to imbue our online/in-person information meetings with more Feng Shui. Include charming rituals ‘giving thanks’ to physical/digital content before disposal via the physical/digital shredder? Add KonMari glamour to the ‘Spring Clean your Files’ posters to keep management awake while discussing information or signing-off enablers?

A long-term approach might be to adopt existing techno-magical solutions to ‘tidy’ our information. Content analytics is one such magic-like solution, having technology do the information governance heavy lifting from the point of creation or receipt. Algorithm-aided pattern recognition links with digitisation, categorisation, and auto-assignment of provisional retention schedules to improve business processes; as improving delivery and enterprise insight gets more leadership attention than cute posters.

Aspects of content analytics can include: identification and category assignment of content at the point of creation or receipt, analysis of existing unstructured information volumes to understand opportunities for improved risk management and cost-savings, potential in-place management of information reducing existing software/hardware costs, support for digitising of physical information such as scanning inbound correspondence and assigning it provisional types based on pattern-recognition, improved reporting to management on existing information to find and communicate opportunities to link files with optimisation of high-value business processes and client insights, assess relative storage costs, and better manage information to deliver core business activities and save time.

Implementation as ever requires a ‘measure twice cut once’ approach for success, even for life-changing magic. Develop a short-term tactical to long-term strategic roadmap. Enlist the ‘many eyes’ approach to good decision making along the way. Early adopters have ironed out many bugs and improved user interfaces for business and technical teams reducing the need for costly specialist administrators, and costs have reduced for enterprise pilot and potential implementation. Software and hardware costs have become less prohibitive as the technology has become mainstream, enabling information professionals do such time-consuming, expensive manual processing by exception. Though as with any technology it’s vital to scope the pilot/release business cases for an end-to-end investment for as many years as the technology will be required. Factor in the cost of software and hardware including licence and maintenance throughout their lifetime. Obtain an accurate storage sizing estimate to match the realistic volume of unstructured information, engaging or training for specialist skills, and get reliable quotes from a range of stable suppliers, ensuring that options fit with your current and future enterprise architecture and standards.

We don’t have to be Konverts to KonMari to appreciate techno-magical solutions that help replace tedious, manual, repeatable processes so that we can instead focus on the interesting opportunities. Augmented analytics is a post for another time.

To learn more about adopting content analytics visit www.aiim.org/~/media/AIIM-Real-Files/Toolkit-PDF/How-to-Content-Analytics.pdf

The above article was contributed to Records and Information Management Professionals Australasia’s (RIMPA) magazine for February 2019. My bonus daughter brought me a Fleur Delacour wand from the Making of Harry Potter London last month, so I should have more faith in magic, I’ll try an ‘expelliarmus’ on my own old paperwork awaiting scanning in the garage.