!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: Tagging as Standard Operating Procedure

Monday, March 31, 2008

Tagging as Standard Operating Procedure

In today's Wall Street Journal, I couldn't help but notice an instance of business lagging behind academia in best practice for information management.

Reporter Ben Worthen interviewed Gary M. Masada, the chief information officer at Chevron, about issues presented by the need to cope effectively with the oceans of information today's companies are awash in.

For his second question, Worthen asks what would make it easier for employees to find particular pieces of information in the vast collection of data that the typical large corporation has in its online files. Masada replies:
People have to do something to help themselves, which is organize their information so that it can be found. Some of it is cleanup. It's like cleaning your house. ...

Another part of it is tagging the information in ways that make it easier to find [by adding so-called metadata that describes what's in a file in more detail]. Some people spend 40% of their time trying to find information. Those people understand that [while this takes more time upfront] it is a productivity booster. But overall it's a challenge because you're asking every employee to do something.
In the world of academic publishing, people have been expected to tag their papers for quite some time. A representative spec is that included in the Journal of Simulation's "Instructions for Authors":
Authors will be asked during submission to provide 3-6 key words defining the essential content of the paper. A list of recommended keywords is given below. [There are 142 items in the list — Accidents, Accounting, Advertising, Agriculture, Air transport, etc.] The keywords on the list are used in the referee selection process, and in the construction of the annual index, so it is important that authors make maximum use of this suggested list.
In his further comments on tagging, Masada observes that
We can put in place ... rules that say if something is an important document you'll retain it in a certain place and you have to tag it. Technology can be an enabler that helps people do this. But in the end an individual will have to do it.
I know from personal experience that routine tagging is scarcely a burden. It should not be a big deal for a company to operate a document management system that prompts for keywords when a document is saved for the first time, and that allows for subsequent modifications to those keywords, as needed.


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