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Information Management: What Is It?

With the advent of computers as storage for information and media for information exchange like the internet, a whole host of buzzwords have popped up surrounding the methods for handling information.  Terms like information technology (IT) and information and communication technology (ICT) are just some of the dozens of terms spawned by advances in computing and communication technology.


A Term Vague to Many

Information management is exactly like the two terms above.  It was born out of a need to manage the increasing amount of data at the disposal of an organisation, and different people have varying definitions for it.  The latter was probably a result of the wide scope of the term, as we will explore later.


Information management refers to the collection, handling and distribution of data and content from different sources and to different recipients or audiences.  Information management, in the context of an organisation, covers how the information is organised, processed and distributed or delivered.

The task of information management has evolved from the simple paper filing and storage of the 1970’s to a more advanced concept in the 1990’s, one that involved not just computers but entire computer systems.  This evolution first happened when the common means for storage transferred from paper to electronic media.  The shift made the task more difficult because more technologies had to be understood by the one who managed the information – the information manager – more than mere ink and paper.  The information management job became even more complex as networks, particularly the internet, emerged and became prevalent within and across organisations.


The Tasks of an Information Manager

Any information manager has to be able to do a variety of tasks that accomplish the goals of information management that were enumerated above, that is, the collection, handling and distribution of data.  The phrase “getting the right information to the right person at the right place at the right time” is quite a popular way of summing up the goals and duties of any information manager and, for that matter, any information management system.


Information managers have to be able to understand three things:  the technology at work, the concepts in play and the people involved.  The first one relates to the great and growing number of technologies used in information management.  That could include things like computers, terminals, servers and databases.  The second one relates to the necessary understanding of how ideas are used and processed, especially in a workplace or organisational environment.  The third one relates to the knowledge of the people who need to have access to the appropriate information and how they can and will use it.


Information management, as a field of study, covers many topics, branches and disciplines of management and computer science.  To some extent, it attempts to bridge the gap between raw information and the people who will ultimately use it.  In the same way that any information management system must be able to do that sufficiently, so must the information manager who will implement and maintain that same system.

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