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Solving the problem of corporate amnesia

Big data has been around for some time now. Most businesses understand the importance of data in the modern business world and have overcome the majority of the initial hurdles thanks to the range of tools and services now in the market.

However, this ever-increasing emphasis on data collection is leaving organisations with a new headache based around the idea of “corporate amnesia.”

This was the topic of discussion at a recent event hosted by Jive Software (opens in new tab), led by the company’s CEO Elisa Steele. “There is so much information, so much data, so much input into what we do in our lives, whether it’s our personal lives or our work lives, that we just can’t know it all,” Steele said. “So understanding where to get information, how to get the right information and who the experts are in the information I need to work on is critically important for productivity.

“There’s so much waste in our economy because of the fact that we can’t actually find and leverage the information we need. In the working world, information is siloed, it’s caught in old systems, it’s in the back room, so it becomes incredibly hard for people to become productive.”

And this problem is being compounded by two factors. Firstly, the growth of flexible working means that - as employees are able to work from wherever, whenever - corporate data is being stored in a variety of different devices and applications, making it extremely hard to keep track of. Secondly, with more and more of the workforce becoming freelance and contractor-based, that data isn’t always being retained within the organisation and is often lost when contractors leave.    

What is corporate amnesia?

It’s probably a feeling that most of us know well. You’re sure you have that information you’re looking for on an email, but you can’t quite remember where you stored it, what the subject was or even if you still have it. The data is there somewhere, but no-one knows exactly where.

Steele explained corporate amnesia as when organisations “have information, knowledge and content, but you forget because you don’t know where it is. Information gets developed and used and then lost.”

It’s an issue that highlights the “massive fragmentation problem” within businesses that is usually built up over a long period of time: “Most big enterprises have a long legacy and have had many technology solutions - or non-technology solutions - over time and need to figure out how to harness the power of their content and their people.”

It has taken a while, but the industry is now realising that this is a serious issue for enterprises in all industries, although it should be noted that the priorities are slightly different. For example, technology companies need to bring people together quickly to keep up with the rapid pace of change, whereas more traditional, industrial industries are having to deal with an ageing and retiring workforce that holds all the knowledge.

So, we know it’s a problem, but what’s the solution?

From mess to memory 

The trick, as Steele explained, is to turn corporate amnesia into corporate memory - “a huge asset to companies because it’s all of the information, people and expertise that actually get the work done every day” – by making work searchable, visible and memorable.

By understanding how its employees are working, who they’re working with and where data is being stored, a business can significantly improve both the productivity and engagement of its workforce.

Jive believes there are three technologies central to this transformation:

  • Machine learning: Involves recommending content and people and delivering “content in context. This is about understanding that if you did this three times yesterday, you’re probably going to do it again tomorrow.”
  • Predictive analytics: Involves analysing and predicting human behaviour and is becoming “central to how we work.” Organisations can use it to gain a better understanding of who is talking to who and how employees are working together.
  • Internet of Things: As more and more devices become internet-connected, understanding how they connect to each other and leveraging the information they provide will be vital.

“We’re moving incredibly fast,” said Steele, so without an effective strategy to deal with the ever-growing mountain of information being collected, businesses risk collapsing under the weight.

Image source: Shutterstock/Sergey Nivens

Sam is Head of Content at Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, and has more than six years' experience as a reporter and content writer, having held the positions of Production Editor, Staff Writer, and Senior Business Writer at ITProPortal.