Information Management Systems
Much like in non-digital formats, information management is a critical aspect of keeping any business running smoothly. Just like a filing cabinet where things are put into folders with no sense of organization information stored digitally with no sort of organization can be impossible to find or even be destroyed accidentally during routine purges of old data. Keeping your data under control is significantly more complex than trying to organize a filing cabinet simply because the sheer speed at which digital information can be created. To that end, a good information management system can be a lifesaver to most businesses.
Information management is handled in many different ways by different companies. Some companies will purchase a fully featured information management system while others find their information management needs are adequately served by free software solutions. In general both of these information management solutions are viable and it primarily comes down to what kind of information management system is right for your business.
When it comes to an information management system there are two primary types. One of these is customer information management. This will include things like keeping track of who your customers are, their purchasing habits or order history, and marketing and demographic information. The other type is knowledge management. This type of information management system is designed for storing information that is crucial for the operation of your business. Employee manuals, internal knowledge bases, and other internal documentation is stored by this system. Information management also includes knowledge bases for customer use, but generally information management systems are used internally.
Quite possibly the most well known information management system on the internet at this time is Wikipedia. Not many people consider Wikipedia an information management website however it is driven by the open source and extremely powerful MediaWiki software. The MediaWiki platform is also used by businesses and other organizations worldwide for information management as it is free, powerful, flexible, and capable of being deployed easily in almost any environment. There are even major banks that use the same software that powers Wikipedia to keep track of internal documentation.
However, MediaWiki has a few serious concerns as it regards to being used as an information management system. The first of this is that MediaWiki is designed to be editable by anyone, and contains very little in the way of permissions that allow you to restrict who is able to access or modify information.
In this regard it is commonly used in IT departments as the employees there tend to be very knowledgeable about their fields of study and are familiar with a wiki style interface for information management.
In an environment where the average employee is not as skilled there could be problems with employees editing your wiki with information that is outdated or simply wrong. To combat this you may want to consider other information management solutions or modify your information management system to only allow edits after they have been approved by someone who is more knowledgeable in that particular area.
There are dozens of other well known systems for managing information. Many offices also make use of Microsoft SharePoint for their information management system needs. SharePoint is a powerful tool not only for managing information but for displaying that information in a format that most users are familiar with. SharePoint also includes extensive Microsoft Office integration which means that documents and other information can be produced by an employee and directly integrated with SharePoint. SharePoint also includes new social networking features and an improved public facing interface that allows it to be used easily to communicate with customers.
Another slightly lesser known information management system is Lotus Notes. Many people only consider Lotus Notes to be an alternative to Microsoft Exchange for sending and receiving email, but in actuality there is serious functionality for functioning as a management system for documents and other information. There is also the capability for a manager or group of persons to be given the responsibility of proofreading submissions to the knowledge base and ensuring that the quality of your knowledge base is maintained. This can be vital in a situation where having the wrong documentation in your management system could result in business downtime.
Another serious thing to consider is the licensing costs of these solutions. MediaWiki is free, Microsoft SharePoint has a fairly heavy license costs, and Lotus Notes has an ongoing license cost that is generally paid yearly. Depending on who you want to have access to your information and how you want that information to be protected, updated, and displayed will determine for the most part which solution you decide is the right one for your business. However, as always the initial and ongoing expense to your business will also make a large part of the decision for you.