At DataLan Corporation, we spend a significant amount of time discussing a select group of people that we refer to as Professional Information Workers. We define this group as people who spend most of their working day creating documents and sending e-mail. Personally, I use a simple litmus test to identify Professional Information Workers; if you start your day checking mail in Microsoft Outlook, then you are probably a Professional Information Worker. I certainly fall squarely into this category.
As Professional Information Workers, we are unique because we deal with data in many different forms such as documents, e-mails, transactional information, schedules, contacts, and task lists. We are often expected to retrieve information from these various sources and synthesize it together so that decisions can be made in a business process. What’s more, this usually involves coordinating the efforts of other Professional Information Workers. The challenges of coordinating information, people, and processes within an organization are significant and frustrating.
In the vast majority of organizations, information is stored and retrieved by type as opposed to business context. In other words, documents are stored on a file server simply because they are in document form. Similarly, e-mail is stored on Exchange regardless of the business information the messages contain. The same is true for transactional information, which is all stored in databases. The situation resulting from this seemingly logical decision to store information by type is chaos for the Professional Information Worker.