Everything old is new again

Everything old is new again

The dawn of the century means fresh ideas and new directions, says Paul Montgomery.

By Paul Montgomery

With all of this partying and post-bug relief around, it seems like we're starting afresh, or at least feeling like we are (no mentioning the 'M' word). As I am only the fourth editor of Image & Data Manager in its history, which now stretches over five years, there has been a great deal of stability in the magazine, and that has certainly been true under Gerard's reign as combined publisher/editor. Now that he has passed the baton, this time is as good as any to restate the function of the magazine, its role, and its future directions.

The first thing to note is that this is not a technology magazine. Yes, we write a lot about technology, but our primary focus is on information management. It can be a subtle distinction, but the main difference is that while IT is about building technological systems, information management is about exploiting them to their full potential for the benefit of employees and their organisations. We subscribe to a saying which has become popular in Internet circles: "Content is king!"

What that means in practice is that technology has to be seen as a supporting infrastructure for information, not an end in itself. The real business benefits don't come from the installation of a shiny new widget, but occur when people have a better understanding of their organisation through technology and can act more intelligently as a result.

This is the impetus behind the relatively recent trend of knowledge management, and it is why we have embraced it in the pages of the magazine. KM has some crossover with the concept of information management, although I have heard some misgivings from some of our more traditional readers who suspect that KM is a "soft" version of the concept which doesn't treat some of the practical issues with the right degree of rigour.

Business benefits don't come from a shiny new widget, but when people have a better understanding through technology

Nevertheless, if the only effect that KM has is to get senior management interested in how to make data work better for them, then it is a start. This message is slowly starting to get through to boardrooms, and Image & Data Manager has become a tool which is being used in this education. Our readership includes 'traditional' managers such as archivists, librarians and records managers, but our core audience of over 10,000 has more CEOs, managing directors, MIS managers, chief information officers and chief knowledge officers. Our role has been to keep experts up to date with existing trends and introducing technologies and theories to entirely new constituencies.

The reason that this process has become more urgent is another theme which has been driving the magazine, and the industries we cover, in the past twelve months: convergence. It is now possible to imagine a technological world without Windows, or at least where the PC metaphor ceases to become relevant. We still talk about document management, business intelligence, customer relationship management and enterprise resource planning as discrete applications, and we still have different icons on our desktop to launch separate applications with distinct interfaces. The advent of the enterprise information portal, and the efforts of some of its innovative pioneers, have shown that this can now be changed.

Not all of this change will be inwardly focused, using abstract goals like the paperless office. We hear a lot about electronic commerce in the mainstream media, but very little about what drives "e-businesses". Information is what feeds them, and the speed with which information can be passed within an e-business and back out to its customers is the measure of its success. This makes information management a very important part of the technology strategy of any e-business. We believe this makes workflow the "hidden glue" of e-commerce, and more and more Internet companies will realise this as they cope with the need to exceed double-digit growth per quarter.

It is a very exciting time to be immersed in what is being called the "knowledge economy", and we are confident that Australia and the rest of the Asia/Pacific region will continue to punch well above its weight. We hope you will join us for the ride into the future.