Thursday, September 29, 2011

Watch Your Language, or DAM It

Let’s wrap up our serialization of Doris Pulsifer’s article, “Watch Your Language: Five Information Management Terms I’d Like to Replace.” Doris has shown why terms such as “archive” and “document type” do a disservice to the ideas those terms represent.

Today we will pick on “document management,” a term that made sense in the dusty past of the 1990s, but is out of date today.

Term No. 5: “document management” is really “digital asset management”

Paper-based definition: “Document management” was really about keeping track of all project documentation (e.g. drawings and specifications) through basic workflow management. Documents were worked on sequentially. People took turns revising drafts of letters and issuing updated copies of plans.

Digital 1.0 definition: Workflow engines captured the rules set to govern the linear sequencing for handling paper-based documents. However, because businesses must constantly adapt to changes in staff, priorities and external forces such as economic conditions, rules often become obsolete as quickly as they’re formulated.

Digital 2.0 definition: Databases allow information to flow between people and departments as needed, without the restrictions of a strict sequence. The term digital asset management, which until now has been relegated to the management of images and video files only, actually deserves a much larger definition. This macro definition of digital asset management encompasses all of the knowledge captured in the firm’s global repository. Use of this knowledge evolves as the business evolves.

Note that experts in digital asset management – DAM – treat it as a broad-based term applicable to all digital files, not just to pictures and videos. This perspective is not surprising, given that all people understand the importance of their work more than the world usually does.

Similarly, Doris asks us to recognize that common terms corral our thinking along common lines, and that uncommon success demands that we think in broader terms.

Doris Pulsifer, the leader of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill’s knowledge management team, published “Watch Your Language” at the website of the American Institute of Architects.

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