“Consider a future device … in which all of your books, records, and communications have been stored and engineered to be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. You now have an enlarged intimate supplement to your memory.”
This is how Vannevar Bush, American engineer and Head of the US Office of Scientific Research and Development during WWII, saw the future of information management in 1945. Now, 75 years later, unprecedented amounts of data has been generated and stored
Like Bush, we continue to push the limits of what is technologically possible. Computing power and smart algorithms provide us with better tools to navigate the growing sea of information. Bush's vision is becoming a reality. The introduction of Intelligent Information Management (IIM) gives us the rod to precisely fish for the information and insights we need.
ECM as a stopover
The need to transition analogue paper from the mill into a digital filing system initiated the birth of Enterprise Content Management (ECM). This can best be compared to Google Drive, Microsoft SharePoint, or Office365: storage of documents in a folder structure, some metadata, and a search function for specific files.
" What Google does for public information is a distant dream within the corporate walls."
Although companies have invested in document management and ECM, too many steps remain between the information as it is stored and the form in which it is needed. Document silos are thriving. Moreover, it is a hopeless task to combine structured information from databases, such as data in tables, with valuable information from, Images, PDFs, or even Word documents.
Lisa or Lisa?
A file is only useful when it can be found, stored safely, and reused. Saving data is only of added value if all information is accessible, by anyone, at any time in the context of his or her assignment. Bush also knew that in '45. Intelligent Information Management (IIM) and artificial intelligence would make this possible.
It offers a more complete solution where all types of information, in structured and unstructured form, become accessible as you need it. Think of documents, film, photo, and audio, of a mountain of e-mails, but also information from databases, ERP, and CRM systems.
This intelligent analysis and interpretation of information is already noticeable in Google Search, which extends the power of IIM to the worldwide web. When looking up a definition, it is presented immediately, instead of a series of sites or documents - although there is still some work to be done on the interpretation.
"Saving data is adding value only if all information is accessible"
For example, when you Google "Lisa, Steve Jobs," the search engine doesn't know if you want to learn more about Lisa, the Apple icon's first computer, or his daughter who is also called Lisa. Or maybe you were looking for the Mona Lisa?
What Google does for public information is a distant dream within corporate walls, causing revenue loss, reputation damage, and too often under-serving customers.
NEEdLE in a haystack
It took a long time for technological horsepower to make the needles in the growing haystack of data discoverable, but artificial intelligence and Natural Language Processing (NLP) are now opening new doors. While in the ECM era Optical Character Recognition (OCR) was an enabling technology to make the transition from material to digital, today AI will enable the fastest and strongest companies to transform information into intelligence.
Just think of the ubiquitous digital assistants, such as Alexa, Siri, or Kate from KBC. Such assistants rely on machines' ability to interpret questions. In this way, the machine understands your question, can structure information, and then extract the appropriate information and replies with an answer. New technologies such as the use of neural networks in NLP (BERT) will only enhance the precision and completeness of that interpretation which will bring it to the level of human experts.
Our brains do not grow with the speed of computers, nor with the amount of data we generate and store. Hence, digitized companies must empower their employees by offering them the right information at the right time. This allows them to focus on processing and not on seeking that information. On the one hand, this results in efficiency gain in-process handling, and on the other, it improves the same processes because it exposes blocking points or inefficiencies.
"Our brains can't grow with the speed of computers, nor with the amount of data we generate."
In fact, IIM strengthens employees' working memory. When a customer shows interest in a new purchase, it is priceless for the seller at that moment to have all relevant documents necessary for the sale; such as the latest orders, emails with the customer, and previous contracts. There IIM shows its value and outclasses the ECM.
In addition, IIM helps with the optimization of data quality. Validating the accuracy of the information is a lot easier thanks to the quick access and the view of the complete picture. Finally, IIM helps companies in the field of privacy. According to the GDPR, it is mandatory to be able to demonstrate what you know about someone and you must also be able to delete that information. Classifying information manually in the function of privacy and confidentiality is a hopeless task. Automatic and smart interpretation of information is the only feasible way, especially when the alternative is 'looking aside'.
Gateway to the future
In the future, IIM will only get smarter, propelled by advancing technology. With our smartphones, we have more computing power in our pocket today than the Apollo 11 rocket that put the first man on the moon.
"Our smartphones today have more computing power than the Apollo 11 rocket that put the first man on the moon."
In this way IIM opens the door to the information management of the future. All information will soon be accessible, including; quotes from a customer in a video, highlights in a contract or even someone smiling in a photo.