2020 was a year like no other – a year of massive change forced upon as we collectively reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic. Much has been written about the way in which we adapted to our changing circumstances, in particular, the need to pivot our business models to quickly enable a new normal way of working. Our move to Microsoft 365 epitomised this.
COVID taught us to make the impossible possible
Take the development of the Oxford Vaccine. Ten years’ of vaccine work was achieved in about 10 months with no corners cut in designing, testing and manufacturing.
The biggest misconception is the work on the vaccine started when the pandemic began.
My key takeaway from this story was that the research team were able to work at speed because they were shovel ready. They had the delivery mechanism in place and were just waiting to insert the specific virus to bring it together.
Pivoting information systems to the “new normal”
As working from home became the new normal, businesses needed to pivot their information delivery systems – fast. For most, this necessitated a speedy re-platform of on-premise information systems into the cloud, and for many Microsoft 365 and Teams were the chosen solutions.
With an overnight forced migration to all things digital and virtual, projects that previously took two years were rolled out in two months — or even two weeks
What does “shovel ready” look like?
And so it was for us here at Synercon. We managed a speedy re-platform into the Microsoft 365 because we already had all of the knowledge that we needed to build a new Information architecture in SharePoint.
Our Knowledge is embodied in the form of the Synercon Ontology – our library of all of the terms (concepts) we use for describing our information. It’s a faceted classification scheme that describes our DNA – our functions, activities, clients, suppliers, programs and projects, topics, etc. The Knowledge is also built into our retention schedule and information protection model.
All of these taxonomies and schemes are managed in our a.k.a. software, a purpose built application which houses the knowledge and is independent of the systems that use it..
With access to the Knowledge, we could work at speed, creating hubs, sites, groups, libraries, columns, search refiners, populating the Term Store, and applying the appropriate level of control for information governance. Needless to say, we have embodied this Knowledge into a best practice guidelines for building a SharePoint information architecture.
Pivoting with auto-classification
Auto-classification is a critical part of our information management strategy because no-one in our business has time to manually apply metadata, and/or appraise documents.
Our taxonomies are also designed to feed our auto-classification engine. We are tagging columns for document type, client name, supplier name, employee name, topic, asset, and project, varying the mix according to which functional area we are working in. In doing this, we are building our contextual knowledge about each document and enabling all of that search functionality that makes SharePoint work. We are also building the metadata to drive appraisal for retention/disposal and information protection.
With auto-classification, what can be tagged in one night would normally take a knowledge worker 2 ½ years!
Building the knowledge – a discipline, not a project
When we started our business, 23 years ago, we built our first classification scheme. From our early days with TRIM, we progressed to SharePoint 2007, 2010, 2013 and now Microsoft 365. Over time our systems have undergone constant evolution, from GroupWise to Outlook, QuickBooks to Xero, Act to Dynamics. But for every new system we’ve drawn from the same set of taxonomies, which have been continuously maintained and improved in our a.k.a. software since 1998.
It’s the discipline known as data governance and mostly it’s overlooked by business leaders and the IT community. But in 2020, the business case for data governance was wonderfully proven as organisations who had it were able to pivot rapidly from one system to another.
Building the Knowledge is not hard but it requires commitment. Reach out if you want to find out more.
A humorous aside
The Knowledge is also the term, used by cabbies, for the examination which they must pass before they can become taxi driver in London. It was the subject of a humorous film made about it in 1979, starring Nigel Hawthorne as the sadistic examiner.
The London taxicab driver is required to be able to decide routes immediately in response to a passenger’s request or traffic conditions, rather than stopping to look at a map, relying on satellite navigation or asking a controller by radio. Consequently, the “Knowledge of London” is the in-depth study of a number of pre-set London street routes and all places of interest that taxicab drivers in that city must complete to obtain a licence to operate a black cab. It was initiated in 1865, and has changed little since.