3 Things an IKEA Dresser can teach us about Content Management

May 18, 2015 12:36:00 PM by John Mancini

Last weekend, we moved my daughter up to New York City.

She started a job today as a nurse at Columbia Presbyterian hospital, and the apartment is on 10th Avenue a bit north of the Port Authority (pizza place on one side of the door, Irish bar on the other, Dunkin Donut down the block – what’s not for me to like?).  My wife and I are alternately very proud and terrified of her accomplishment and move. Mostly the former. Her place is in the middle of the picture below by the diversity flag.

In the course of the move-in and many illegal parking spaces and Keystone Cop antics associated with doing a move-in in NYC, we decided to add to the lunacy and make a visit to IKEA.  In Brooklyn.

Those who know me can testify that IKEA is not one of my usual haunts.  Just following those little arrows through the pre-defined maze of bedrooms to kitchens to living rooms to bathrooms gets me a bit dizzy.  If not for the meatballs I would usually rather put a stick in my eye than go to IKEA.  But truth be told, amidst my whining, anytime I am forced to go to IKEA, I do have a grudging appreciation for the sophistication of the operation.  And for the incredible example it provides of effective Taxonomy and Metadata management in action.

Say what? Taxonomy and Metadata?

At IKEA, I find myself thinking about all the conversations I’ve had with so many people over the years about the impossibility of truly doing content and document management well. About how incredibly gargantuan the task is of organizing all that content. About how nobody can find ever anything. About how the sheer volume of all that content makes the task not just difficult, but impossible. About how even at AIIM (true confessions), with only 30 people and sitting atop the world’s best collection of content and about content, we struggle much like the shoemaker’s children to organize our fairly modest content and information assets into something coherent.

For anyone who has managed to somehow avoid the IKEA experience, THIS is what awaits you at the end of your journey.

Endless rows of stuff, just like the one above, that bring to mind the huge warehouse at the end of Indiana Jones:

It’s a physical version of the Digital Landfills we create in our organizations -- huge undifferentiated dumping grounds of beds and dressers and lamps and rugs and sofas that mirror the file shares and SharePoint team sites and Box folders and poorly implemented content management systems in our organizations.

Except something different is going on here. There is a method and a structure to this madness that allows people – regular people, none of whom appear to be actually Swedish and none of whom appear to be card carrying members of APICS (American Production Inventory Control Society) – to navigate this incredible inventory of “stuff” on their own and with a minimum of supervision, find exactly what they need, load it onto flatbed carts, and move on beyond the cash registers. To where you can get those $1 ice cream cones at the end. 

I think there are three main concepts in the organization of this vast repository of physical goods that are useful as we think about how we organize our digital assets.

1 – Make your Taxonomy as complicated as is necessary to get the job done. And not one bit more.

Think about the names that are used to organize classes or families of related items at IKEA. Names like – Hemnes, Trysil, and Brimnes. The observant among you will note that these are not English words. You will also note that the last time I checked, most Americans are not bilingual in English and Swedish.

I think the key here as we think about digital assets is that the naming structures we use do not necessarily even need to be familiar conventions for a taxonomy to work.  But they DO need to be: 1) consistently applied; 2) simple; 3) constantly reinforced; and most importantly 4) applied at a level of granularity that makes sense in the context of the problem you are trying to solve.

In the context of IKEA, think about the family of items tied to the dresser we bought, classified under the family name "Hemnes." Under the grouping of Hemnes, you can find multiple configurations and colors or dressers, but also beds and mirrors and wardrobes in the same family.  If you like the basic look associated with Hemnes, you can find all of the various items that might be tied to this “look.” Note that there aren’t an infinite number of items in this highest “facet” of the IKEA taxonomy. Nor are there so few labels as to provide no utility.  

Oh, by the way, here is a picture of the dresser I made.  With my own hands. With a minimum of cursing. OK, my wife did the drawers.

2 – Integrate the taxonomy DIRECTLY into the user and employee experience.

Organizations will often spend months – many times, years – developing the “perfect” taxonomy, only to roll it out to deafening indifference.  And the moment indifference hits, it is only a blink of an eye before that beautiful and elegant taxonomy, created with great care, becomes forgotten and useless.

The IKEA taxonomy -- even though crafted in another language – is the language customers use to talk about IKEA's products.  I'll bet there were at least 50 native languages spoken at that Brooklyn IKEA, but when it came to talking products, everyone spoke Swedish.  Their taxonomy labels are at the core of everything.  They are how the store and the web site and catalogue is organized.  It is the language of how the business functions. And in the process of all this, the usual questions we wrestle with in the content space that thwart adoption – findability, usability, change management – seem to have fallen away. The taxonomy is the business and the business is the taxonomy.

The part of the IKEA experience I find most amazing is when all the customers miraculously find their way to exactly where their product is stored. This is done through tags in the showroom that include the location of the product in the warehouse (see below).

IKEA would be a madhouse if everyone just wandered around the warehouse trying to find what he or she were looking for, no matter how well organized this back-end was.  The showroom – organized by another taxonomy facet, the kind of room the stuff will go in – is a key part of the user experience. It is the equivalent of a well-curated and intuitively presented search experience in the digital world. It is not just search, which is the way we usually think of the problem.  It is combining search with an intuitive user experience to create findability, which is far too rare a commodity in most systems.

3 – There doesn’t need to be just one repository, but there does need to be a strategy.

The last piece of the puzzle is where the “stuff” in IKEA is ultimately stored.  Each product is linked to a precise location in the stacks (see below). A precise and unique location. Say it again, a precise and unique location. That sure isn't the way digital assets are usually treated in our organizations -- think, for example, about all of the various places a ppt presentation that is attached to an email might ultimately reside.

And that’s the last and perhaps most important analogy from IKEA to the world of digital assets. 

We have two urgent problems we need to solve in our organizations. These problems are distinct, but connected. You can’t solve only one, or information will never wind up in a precise and unique place.

I’ve written about this before. We need to think about the question of information management and information security from a different vantage point – that of the knowledge worker – rather than that of central IT control. Because to be sustainable in an era of consumerization and digital disruption, an information management strategy must answer two questions for knowledge workers:

Where do I put my “stuff” so that it is secure, shareable, and searchable so that my ORGANIZATION can accomplish its goals?


Where do I put my “stuff” so that it works the way I work and is useful to ME in getting my job done?

And Taxonomy and Metadata are at the heart of this dichotomy.  

What suggestions do YOU have re an effective taxonomy/metadata strategy? -- Share them via a comment!

If you’re serious about “IKEA-ifying” your information management strategy, here are two good places to start:

AIIM Taxonomy and Metadata Resource Center – become a professional member and access the rich curated collection of information.

Find What You Need Today!

AIIM’s Taxonomy and Metadata course – one of our most popular classes.

Yes, I want to enroll for $595!


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Topics: information governance, metadata, taxonomy, enterprise content management, ecm

8 things you need to know about #ECM in Europe

May 11, 2015 10:20:24 PM by John Mancini

[Note:  the following is a European data cut from AIIM’s new ECM Decisions report. You can get a copy HERE.] 

More importantly, these are some of the issues that I’ll discuss in my keynote at the AIIM Forum 2015 in London on June 24.  Attendance is FREE; to register, go HERE.

We’ll also be doing 2 pre-cons on the day before the Forum, June 23.  Registration for the special ECM pre-con is HERE and reg for the course on Information Governance is HERE.

8 things you need to know about ECM in Europe

  1. 28% of organizations are implementing an enterprise-scale ECM capability, and an addition 12% have already done so.
  2. The primary business drivers for ECM are: 1) costs and productivity (32%); 2) compliance and risk (30%) and collaboration (29%). Customer service rounds out the drivers at 9%.
  3. The idea of a single content repository is a pipedream for most organization – 47% or organizations have at least 3 major ECM systems in place.
  4. The idea that ECM signals the end of file shares is similarly a pipedream – for 60% of those with an ECM implementation, files shares are still a significant repository (for 26%, the DOMINANT content store!).
  5. 22% say they have policies restricting consumer file sharing services, but that these policies are regularly circumvented.
  6. 21% say they let users figure out what emails to keep and what to get rid of.
  7. 27% say they like their vendor’s roadmap, but find it way ahead of where they are now.
  8. 60% don’t have any linkages between their ERP/Finance and ECM/RM systems.

All of this points to a big change in content management:  The combined impact of consumerisation, cloud and mobile, and the Internet of Things are signalling the end of the ECM Era -- as we have come to know it.

Organisations are struggling with best practices and norms as they make the transition to this sixth era dominated by Mobile, Analytics, Cloud and Collaborative (MACC) technologies - and the companies that provide the vital supporting technologies are rapidly changing shape.

There are several significant trends emerging from this transition:

  • New approaches to privacy and security
  • Ubiquitous broadband connectivity
  • Bottom up rather than top down innovation
  • Lots more virtual and distributed work
  • A shortage of IT "connective” and analytic skills
  • An OPEX vs. CAPEX procurement model
  • Increased regulation of the cloud by national governments

"Every organization, every executive, every individual, every object is on a digital journey and content is at the heart of that journey,” notes futurist Thornton May. "Content is ubiquitous and critical, but ECM is rapidly becoming invisible.”

Join me in London on the 24th for more.


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Topics: erm, content management, ecm, aiim forum

Information Chaos in a Nutshell

Apr 23, 2015 10:57:07 PM by John Mancini

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Sharepoint Angst

Apr 23, 2015 6:22:55 PM by John Mancini

Get a copy of the full report HERE

Download new SharePoint Research

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Topics: sharepoint

Be honest -- How do YOU get around your organization's outdated systems and policies?

Apr 23, 2015 4:22:45 PM by John Mancini

I was recently talking to an AIIM member about accessing documents related to a project that we were both working on.  So this will not be viewed as some sort of tacit endorsement, I’ll leave the name of the vendor out, but it’s a significant player in the enterprise sync and share space.  I’ll also leave out the name of the AIIM member so he/she won’t get into trouble!  

But I think this short story illustrates the totally unrealistic and counter-productive way most enterprises are looking at the incursion of consumer technologies into the enterprise. Consider the following.

When I mentioned the specific cloud file repository we were using for project, the AIIM member said they couldn’t access the site because the "domain was blocked at work."  As we talked about the implications of this, an old adage of mine came to mind -- the desire of the “business” to get work done by individuals will always trump our desire for organizational “control” of information.

The response of the AIIM member was this (paraphrasing):  “It won’t be a huge problem to get around it.  I’ll access the documents at home on a personal device, and then forward them to myself at work for reference during our conference call.”

Truth be told, this kind of stuff occurs all the time. And yet so many organizations persist in putting their heads in the sand, and assume that if they wish it so (“we’ll keep information under control by just blocking the domain”) it will be so.

Our upcoming ECM Industry Watch (look for it on the 29th) provides some data documenting the head in the sand approach most organizations are taking when it comes to thinking about the question of mobile accessibility and the REAL patterns of how knowledge work is actually done in the year 2015.

Consider the answers to this question: What progress are you making towards content and process access on mobile devices?  Is it any wonder that user adoption and utilization of most ECM systems remains a significant problem?

  • 5%      We have widespread access for staff and project partners
  • 6%      Most of our staff are able to access content and processes on mobile
  • 10%    We have mobile access to ECM content for those that need it
  • 18%    We are rolling out mobile access
  • 16%    We have plans for mobile access in the next 12-18 months
  • 27%    We have nothing planned as yet

The upcoming Industry Watch notes that 60% of organizations that have deployed ECM solutions agree with the statement, “Gaining user adoption has been a big problem for our ECM project.”  62% agree with the statement "We still rely on file shares."  And this is among organizations with ECM solutions!

I think a lot of this comes from a miscalculation of the true nature of information risk -- calculations that for many organizations are based on the outdated assumption that users have no choice with regards to the tools they use and that we can continue to "control" things the same way we did when all knowledge work was done at a desktop computer and in an office and on equipment owned and issued by central IT casting.

This comment from Michael Coleman, SVP & CIO at Comporium Communications illustrates the challenge facing organizations as they recalibrate risk in an era of consumerization and disruption:

“Deciding where to let go is a key element in managing overall risk.  You need to decide what are actually corporate assets, and push processes to make sure they live in a specific place. There are not enough people to manage the volume. Make sure you get that foundational layer right.”

Alan Pelz-Sharpe spoke at the AIIM Conference about this challenge under the description of the “fragmented enterprise” and offers this advice to organizations:

  • Data and traffic volumes are overwhelming – winners only manage essentials, don’t be a hoarder – Focus on IT efficiency
  • Algorithms only tell us so much – winners invest in smart people to use, interpret, interact with and and ask the right questions
  • BYO everything will be a reality – but not for everything, every time – there is a time and a place…
  • Don’t chase fashions – focus on your customers and your products/services – more people and less technology may be the way forward
  • Do watch emerging trends, some (not many) can be truly disruptive
  • Manage data from creation to destruction – always

All of which brings me to a previous post: When riding a dead horse, dismount - #ECM in the era of Digital Disruption.

We need to think about the question of information management and information security from a different vantage point – that of the knowledge worker – rather than that of central IT control. Because to be sustainable in an era of consumerization and digital disruption, a strategy must answer two questions for knowledge workers:

Where do I put my “stuff” so that it is secure, shareable, and searchable so that my ORGANIZATION can accomplish its goals?


Where do I put my “stuff” so that it works the way I work and is useful to ME in getting my job done?

Until we recalibrate our strategies to deal with BOTH these questions, we will struggle to achieve a true strategy to effectively manage our information assets.

Download Content Management 2020!


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What is the biggest problem facing information professionals? - cast your vote

Apr 13, 2015 6:59:14 PM by John Mancini


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ASAE Peeps Need to Pay Attention to LinkedIn Acquisition of Lynda

Apr 9, 2015 8:15:00 PM by John Mancini

Last month I did a blog post on the need for associations to thinking AGGRESSIVELY about the intersection of our networking, learning, and content curation efforts, or risk being left behind by better positioned competitiors in the consumer world -- Association Friends – A Manifesto to Survive Disruption -- Am I a Genius, a Nut, or just plain Cranky?

The premise was the following -- there is a terrible lack tools in the association community to bring together our networking, learning, and content curation efforts. I used my experience in recording a course for Lynda.com -- located HERE! -- to describe my concerns about the lack of strategic tools to link networking, content, and learning in the association community.  Stated simply, we need to drive an intersection of these tools -- what we all currently deal with is stunningly suboptimal -- or risk the consequences.  My premise:

1 -- There is a shakeout coming in the association space.

2 -- The associations that are currently financially sustainable have at their core:

  1. professional certification that is a necessary ticket to be in that profession (i.e., you MUST have it to do your job);
  2. big trade show; and/or
  3. clear policy enemy or objective.

3 -- Everyone else is essentially in the a) networking, b) training, or c) content development/delivery business.

4 -- All of the items in #3 are in the midst of accelerating disintermediation from the web and social technologies

Well, associations better pay attention to the combination of Lynda.com and LinkedIn.com, because it the game has just changed DRAMATICALLY.  Check out the announcement -- and think about how compelling YOUR offerings are compared to this combination.


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Topics: associations

The shortest #AIIM survey ever

Apr 8, 2015 9:35:00 PM by John Mancini

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Topics: erm, ecm, bpm

With apologies to Julie Andrews, these are a few of my favorite #AIIM15 tweets

Apr 6, 2015 2:32:00 PM by John Mancini

Here is a sampling from some of my favorite #AIIM15 tweets.  Enjoy.

If you weren't able to attend in San Diego, we hope to see you next year in New Orleans.  And here is a short (and FREE!) e-book to give you an idea of what you missed...

Click here to Download


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Topics: RISK, process automation, content management, ecm, engagement, analytics

5 New Content Management White Papers Worth Checking Out

Apr 2, 2015 12:07:00 PM by John Mancini

5 New ECM White Papers

DPO: in-house, near shore or offshore?

Document process outsourcing now covers a wide range of document conversion and process execution, and the work can be done anywhere in the world. We surveyed users and non-users to explore the drivers and the concerns.  Download your copy now.

My Documents or Our Documents?

Mobile workers, project partners, and suppliers must have access to vital project-centric documents. Sharing content via the cloud makes it easy, but we still need to apply governance, and cloud content needs to align with on-prem ECM. Read what our survey takers said. ECM and the Cloud.

End-to-End Process Monitoring for Performance and Compliance

Managing and monitoring document-centric business processes presents a unique challenge. We look at the issues of monitoring business processes through different stages and systems to spot the loops and stucks, and the benefits of applying intelligent BI to the end-to-end process. Get the report.


Extracting Maximum Value From Your Content

Too many ECM implementations fail to meet their full potential, and, as a result, the full value of the stored content is not available to the business. In this report, we look at four aspects of ECM that go beyond the basics and round out the true business potential: capture, case management, information governance and mobile access. Read Maximizing Your Content Value: Capture, Case Management, Compliance, Mobile Workforce.

Shining Daylight on Archived Premises and Construction Drawings

We still live in a mixed world of paper and digital, particularly where records are kept for a long time – often because the building, plant, patient or client has a lifetime over many decades. But do they still need to be stored on paper? Suppose you could wave a magic wand and “overnight” all your archive drawings appeared in the cloud.  Learn how.


Have you checked out our new Content Management 2020 report?

Click here to Download


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Topics: erm, content management, ecm, records management

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