I have already written an initial piece about the TIMAF Information Management Best Practices Volume 1 and in this piece I touch upon a theme, that of diversity of perspective, which I would like to pick up on again.
I am reminded of what Forrest Gump recalled as a piece of wisdom from his mother: “Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” The TIMAF Information Management Best Practices is a bit like that box of chocolates. Open the volume and pick a chapter and you will find something quite different but also something that is quite satisfying.
The IM BP Volume 1 contains 19 chapters provided by leading practitioners from around the world. There are contributions from the US, the UK, Holland, India, Australia and Canada. Most take the form of project case studies that set out to highlight the specific steps that make each case study instructive. My contribution to volume 1 adopts the case study format so that the best practices being illustrated become as concrete and tangible as possible. This contribution recounts the various ups and downs of a multi-year initiative that, on a multi-enterprise scale, ventured deep into the depths of emerging markup standards and technologies. A few of the contributions take a slightly different form, assembling instead observations that have been culled from a number of project experiences. An example of this type of contribution can be found in Alan Pelz-Sharpe’s chapter on “How to Successfully Procure Information Management Technology”, which comes with the delightful sub-title “And not End up with a Lemon”. This contribution definitely bristles with hard won experience and it accordingly offers some pretty compelling suggestions.
As has been observed by some other reviewers of the Information Management Best Practices Volume 1, there is a marked orientation in the book towards the Content Management side of the Information Management domain. Some have expressed the view that in being about Information Management (IM) there are other aspects, such as Data Management (DM), that should have received more attention. On that particular score it is worth noting that Volume 1 concludes with a chapter by Bill Yock of the University of Washington on “Governing Data Management” which approaches the fascinating concept of “Creating a Constitutional Democracy for Data Management” and which hits on one of the essential questions underlying the overall IM domain – how to create structures and processes that can bend and adapt to reflect what people want and need to do.
It is self-evidently true that Information Management, writ large, is a massive domain and it is for this reason that the approach taken by the TIMAF editors is the right one. By sourcing a wide selection of contributions, chief editors Bob Boiko and Erik Hartman avoid what is probably the greatest risk of all when approaching the field of IM – that of attempting to prescriptively define the domain and thereby succeed only in excluding one or more important considerations. The TIMAF approach is closer to crowd sourcing although admittedly from a pretty accomplished crowd. And this is in fact the chief virtue of the TIMAF Information Management Best Practices Volume 1 – that it assembles so many valuable perspectives and allows a far richer picture to emerge of what IM is and what IM practitioners do, than would otherwise have been possible.
The call for submissions to Volume 2 of the TIMAF Information Management Best Practices is now out. And with this call for contributions we can look forward to another collection of perspectives and that these will further enrich our collective understanding of what it means to “manage information”. So to adapt and extend the wisdom of Forrest Gump’s mother, and to apply it to the TIMAF initiative and the forthcoming effort to produce Volume 2, we can say with little fear of contradiction that the one thing better than a box of chocolates is two boxes of chocolates.