The Path From Technical Writer to Information Manager

The Path From Technical Writer to Information Manager

This article aims to draw attention to the increasing importance of Technical Writers / Information Managers (m/f/d) and highlight the features of these job descriptions. As well as this, it offers an overview of possible developments and recommended qualifications. To improve readability, the following does not include the supplement “m/f/d”. Use the LinkedIn comments to let the community know which certifications you think are important for an Information Manager.

 

The Technical Writer. The professional title “Technical Writer” was coined by Tekom (Gesellschaft für Technische Kommunikation) in collaboration with the Federal Labour Office. A Technical Writer is responsible for the conceptualisation, creation and updating of technical documentation such as user guides, operating manuals, installation and assembly instructions, as well as training material. Technical Writers are increasingly working in-house and write, for example, system and application documentation as well as requirement specifications. They also manage terminology and user interfaces alongside the development process.

Did you know? There were around 85,000 full-time Technical Writers in Germany in 2016. A large portion of the documentation is, however, authored by individuals, who actually have a different role, which means that the actual profession “Technical Writer” is largely unknown. (Wikipedia)

Reading suggestion: Why Your Role of Technical Writer is Becoming Increasingly Important

The Information Manager role is less clearly defined. Information management in general means the management of information, however the term has various definitions in technical literature. The reason for this is the dynamic environment of IT development as well as the various academic disciplines (in particular information systems that is involved with information and communication management). […] In general “strategic information management” is described by various authors as the planning, conceptualisation, monitoring and managing of information and communication within organisations with the aim of achieving strategic goals. (Wikipedia)

Information Manager – a profession? Information Manager as a role does not have a job description and is not listed as a skilled occupation in the German setting (see Planit, berufe.eu; despite this, however, “information Manager” is included in the occupations list of the employment agency as a “field of study” and “occupation after studies”).

A comparison between the activities of a Technical Writer and those of an Information Manager finds similarities. Both deal with documentation/information. However the Information Manager flies higher. Unlike a Technical Writer, they aren’t involved full-time in the actual creation of documentation but instead are also responsible for the process of information management and the quality of the process as well as that of the documentation. The tasks and responsibility of a Technical Writer are therefore a good basis for professional development into an Information manager. The experience gathered helps master growing challenges and expanded responsibilities.

 

Additional tasks for an Information Manager include:

  • Management of the documentation process
  • Recording of information needs
  • Communication with stakeholders (regular meetings with Responsibles & Accountables)
  • Drafting of programmes/projects
  • Management of technical implementation
  • Management of the (teams of) Responsibles
  • Adaptation of available modules, templates and models as required
  • Management and support of information creation, review and updating
  • Making reviewed information available and accessible for authorised persons
  • Reporting about the status, progress and obstacles / risks
  • Holding training/education sessions
  • Interest in and promotion of continuous improvement

 

An Information Manager should have the following knowledge and skills:

  • Understanding of the overall objective and the defined scope
  • Ability to work across departments and understand connections
  • Adequate experience
  • Knowledge of the necessary methods and practices as well as how to apply them
  • Handling of information management technologies and knowledge of their advantages/disadvantages
  • Basic user knowledge of content management systems (e.g. SharePoint, Alfresco)
  • Basic user knowledge of content delivery systems (e.g. WordPress, Typo 3, Confluence)
  • Ideally some industry expertise

 

Which qualifications can aid success in the additional areas of responsibility?

  • Studies, for example in information management / multimedia communication and documentation / digital humanities
  • and/or several years of professional experience as a Technical Writer
  • Certified Information Professional – CIP** (aiim)
  • (agile) project management
  • Technical Writer (Tekom)
  • ITIL Foundation (especially in IT)

 

CIP – what is this? Certified Information Professional is a certification offered by the American organisation aiim (Association for Information and Image Management). Details can be found in the following article: Why Should Technical Writers get CIP Certification?

 

Summary

The need for Technical Writers will increase (Why Your Role of Technical Writer is Becoming Increasingly Important). At the same time, the demands on Technical Writers are becoming ever more complex. Experienced Technical Writers that take on additional responsibilities are referred to as Information Managers. Anyone who is interested in an advancement to Information Manager can gain an overview of the tasks and skills of an Information Manager and obtain the available certifications.

Which certifications do you think are relevant for an Information Manager?
Which knowledge/certification do you see as must-have, and which as nice-to-have?
Write a LinkedIn comment!

The Path From Technical Writer to Information Manager (PDF)
Possible developments and recommended qualifications.

Do you have any question? Simply email to: marketing@avato.net

Imprint: 
Date: September 2019
Author: Jennifer Gitt
Contact: marketing@avato.net
www.avato-consulting.com
© 2019 avato consulting ag
All Rights Reserved.

Why Should Technical Writers get CIP Certification?

Why Should Technical Writers get CIP Certification?

Germany offers many avenues for additional training in the area of Information Management. The market for training and further education in the area of Information Management is developing at a rapid speed in Germany. 15 German universities currently offer Information Management in 24 different study courses (Studis.online). But what is on offer in the further education market? As a pioneer on the topic of technical documentation, (Tekom) offers an answer complete with relevant certifications.

On the international stage, the American organisation AIIM (Association for Information and Image Management) may be a more familiar name. Their certification, which reflects years of practical experience and know-how, is called CIP – Certified Information Professional.

 Did You Know?

The professional title “Technical Writer” was coined by Tekom (Gesellschaft für Technische Kommunikation) in collaboration with the Federal Labour Office.

There were around 85,000 full-time technical writers in Germany in 2016. A large portion of the documentation is, however, authored by individuals, who actually have a different role, which means that the actual profession ‘Technical Writer’ is largely unknown. (Wikipedia)

 

Why Should You Get Certification?

According to PayScale.com, organizations are willing to pay 27% more for a certified professional than an uncertified comparable specialist. But the majority of CIPs report that the true value is what it does for your reputation.

Hemaben Patel, ECM Lead for a large international airline, explains, “Having the CIP gives my internal customers and partners a certain level of confidence that whatever strategy or solution I propose is based on best practices and experience.” (AIIM)

The CIP course and the CIP study guide offer a wealth of valuable learning content. Read more on the subject below. The CIP certificate is proof of what the CIP certification has made you: An expert for intelligent information management – or in other words: an Information Manager.

The certification for Certified Information Manager could be our first step towards becoming an information manager if you have previously been employed as a technical writer. The responsibilities of an information manager are much broader in scope. The CIP certificate will help you find the right role on an international stage.

 

For Whom Will CIP be Interesting?

CIP is an interesting proposition for

  • Information Management Consultants
  • Technical Writers
  • Project leads, project managers and team members in IM projects
  • Anyone working in the areas of Records Managements, Document Management, Electronic Archiving and Enterprise Content Management
  • IT Management professionals and technical IT staff

Intelligent IM can also be an exciting topic for groups in the following areas:

  • Risk Management
  • Business Analysis
  • Process Design
  • IT Coordination
  • Change Management
Test yourself!

Are you ready for your certification?

There are three freely accessible tests that you can use to assess your knowledge: Sample Test 

 

Even More Practically Oriented Since May 2019

The CIP certification has been around for a few years now, but some content changes were made in May 2019. It now includes numerous practical scenarios. It also now recognises the fact that organisations no longer need ECMs (“ECM is now dead”, Gartner. aiim). More to the point: We now understand the fact that the challenge is only to some extent a technical one. However, the authors left one chapter on technology untouched. Technology is, after all, an important tool and very much needed when facing the challenges of creating intelligent information:

  • Modernizing the information toolkit
  • Digitalizing core organizational processes
  • Automating compliance & governance
  • Leveraging analytics & machine learning

This realisation is also reflected in the new structure of the various learning topics, which focus on the following content:

  1.   Creating and Capturing Information
  2.   Extracting Intelligence from Information 
  3.   Digitalizing Core Business Processes
  4.   Automating Governance and Compliance
  5.   Implementing an Information Management Solution
Are you already a CIP?

What has changed in comparison with the previous version?The first and last chapters are similar in terms of content. Some topics were summarised in the middle part and new focal points were set. These were the former contents:

  1. Creating and Capturing Information
  2. Organizing and Categorizing Information
  3. Governing Information
  4. Automating Information-Intensive Processes
  5. Managing the Information Lifecycle
  6. Implementing an Information Management Solution

 

Cost & Scope

The certification consists of 100 multiple choice questions. The various topic areas are weighted differently. The weightings can be found in the study guide. A 60% score is a pass.

Non-AIIM members will have to shell out USD 1785 – but in my experience, the certification is not required for technical writers. In most cases, practical work experience and in-depth familiarisation with the study guide should guarantee a pass.

The CIP Study Guide is available free of charge for professional members. Everyone else will have to pay affordable USD 60.

The test fee is around USD 385 (members pay USD 349).

(The membership fee is USD 169 per year. I personally opted in favour of a membership before I did my certification. It gave me access to the community and it got me an overall discount of USD 100 for the study guide and test.)

 

Summary

Certifications are always career boosters. Specifically in terms of international job opportunities, the CIP certification is a great place to start if you want to step up the ladder from Technical Writer to Information Manager. The certification is based on many years of valuable practical experience and was completely revised in May 2019 to reflect latest developments. The time needed, as well as the financial cost can be minimised with practical experience and autonomous preparation.

Why Should Technical Writers get CIP Certification? (PDF)

Send an email for questions and feedback: marketing@avato.net

Imprint: 
Date: August 2019
Author: Jennifer Gitt
Contact: marketing@avato.net
www.avato-consulting.com
© 2019 avato consulting ag
All Rights Reserved.

Why Your Role of Technical Writer is Becoming Increasingly Important

Why Your Role of Technical Writer is Becoming Increasingly Important

Global Trends & Developments in Germany

Nobody would have expected this development if technical writers had been asked 10 years ago: The job description has undergone far-reaching changes and has grown in importance across all industry sectors. “Documentation” was generally regarded as a very dry, quite boring subject. Latest trends and technologies, however, have brought about significant change. Definitely a gratifying development for technical writers. Their work has grown in importance and regard.

But why is that? Will that trend continue? What changes will technical writers be facing? What will be his future responsibilities in the process of information creation and maintenance?

In the following, we will be looking at trends in Germany and at global developments.

Wikipedia Side Note: Technical Writer

The technical writer conceives, creates and updates technical documentation like operating manuals, installation and assembly instructions, as well as training material or online help documents. Technical writers are increasingly working in-house and author e.g. requirement and functional specifications or manage terminology and user interfaces alongside the development process.

 

In Focus: IT

Increased Requirement in IT

In addition to many other areas, technical writers are also used in IT. The need for technical writers grows with the IT scale. Let’s have a closer look at IT. According to statistics, the number of people employed in the “IT Services & Software” sector has grown steadily over the past 10 years. In comparison with 2008, a total increase of around 70% (to almost one million employees) was recorded by 2018.

The sales growth rates in IT Services & Software similarly express the increase in the German IT sector. The statistics show that the plus over the last five years alone was on average about 8.6%. In comparison: GDP growth was 1.8% on average. Another indicator for the growth in the IT sector is IT spending, e.g. for enterprise software and IT services. These increased in the past two years worldwide by around 15%.

The trend is therefore unmistakable and if we can believe forecasts, then it will continue over the coming years. The importance of IT grows and IT networks have found their way into virtually all industrial products and services. The more IT networks and the more IT is included in end products, the greater the need for technical documentation and communication – and therefore for technical writers.

 

Forecasts

In terms of forecasts, Gartner, Statista and the like agree: The trend is here to stay. Cloud services are a special case for growing IT services. The expected turnover in cloud computing will grow exponentially in Germany and around the globe. (Statista)

Maybe you are familiar with the following quote from Peter Heidkamp, Head of Technology at KPMG: “The digital transformation of a business often begins with cloud solutions. In practical terms: they drive digitalisation”.

The cloud makes everything easier and less complicated – or so you might think. Unfortunately, that is not the case in all areas. Many companies are faced with increased challenges in terms of documentation vis-a-vis simpler use. That means that the need for documentation increases alongside cloud use and therefore intensifies the need for technical writers.

 

In Focus: Regulatory Requirements

Although everyone was happy about the reduced number of spam emails in their inbox due to the introduction of the GDPR last year, it also meant a huge reorganisation effort for companies. It wasn’t just processes that needed to be changed – GDPR compliance had to be documented and detailed in such a way that steps could be retraced later in retrospect.

Guidelines, laws, directives and standards are meant to create orientation and stability. In practise, however, the pressure on companies increased and specifically where the digital transformation of a business increasingly interlinks these companies with their partners, suppliers and customers. That is why regulatory topics also need to be approached and defined in a new way. (KPMG, this article is currently only available in German).

You have probably come across various regulatory requirements as well, e.g. when opening a bank account or signing for an insurance. Financial service providers are struggling against a tide of new regulatory requirements (like Basel III, CRR/CRD IV, BRRD and most recently Basel IV) that need to be implemented within ever shorter deadlines, says Bankingclub (this article is currently only available in German).

Directives like GDPR or industry-specific regulatory requirements – the cost for documentation for companies is increasing.  That in turn also means that the demand for technical writers is growing.

Did You Know?

There were around 85,000 full-time technical writers in Germany in 2016. A large portion of the documentation is, however, authored by individuals, who actually have a different role, which means that the actual profession ‘Technical Writer’ is largely unknown. (Wikipedia)

 

What Changes for Technical Writers?

Changes in technical documentation and communication result in changing requirements for technical writers. Statistics show that IT is a sector that is growing on the one hand and needs many technical writers on the other.  Technical writers with a broad knowledge base in IT will therefore have particularly good opportunities.

IT knowledge in general has become an advantage because the way we communicate with each other has fundamentally changed. Technical communication increasingly relies on new technologies.

Changes in technical communication:

  • Increasing numbers of networked products
  • Changes in the way we work
    • Use of VR, e.g. in the design process of a product
    • Use of AI, e.g. in industrial applications to recognise machine downtimes early or to prevent them (predictive analytics)
    • Employee and customer support using (chat)bots, e.g. chatbots for customer support

It isn’t just sector-specific know-how or being familiar with specific technologies that can be used to your advantage. Experience shows that methodology and the ability to think outside the box play an important role in documentation. Anyone looking for career development opportunities can take that step towards information management. Without delving to deep at this point: In addition to technical writing, information managers are (among other things) responsible for involving various stakeholder groups in the creation of the information basis to allow them to jointly define objectives. At the same time, information managers also take on the responsibility for project management, reporting and goal fulfilment.

 

In Summary

The trends and developments of recent years, as well as current forecasts suggest that the time has come for more and technologically & methodically more innovative documentation – particularly in the IT sector. A good strategy for technical writers is ongoing learning and training. This can be sector-specific or tailored to new methods, approaches and technologies. One of our next newsletters will contain information about the certifications that could be particularly interesting for you as a technical writer.

Why Your Role of Technical Writer is Becoming Increasingly Important (PDF)
Global Trends & Developments in Germany

Do you have further questions? Send us an email: marketing@avato.net

Imprint 
Date: July 2019
Author: Jennifer Gitt
Contact: marketing@avato.net
www.avato-consulting.com
© 2019 avato consulting ag
All Rights Reserved.

IT Integration or Separation: Information is the Key to Success

IT Integration or Separation: Information is the Key to Success

Post-merger IT integration and IT separations have become commonplace in the IT operations of most companies. Many of these incidences take a long time to do or are never truly completed – with often reiterated consequences. How can you make improvements in this area, how can you minimize risk and prevent pesky long-term consequences?

A reliable basis of information is the key to becoming faster and more efficient. How high is the cost for the integration of two badly documented IT organizations? How quickly can you carry out a spin-off in your IT? Do you have a good basis of information, with which you can support a spin-off?

Integration or Separation: It’s all a Matter of Perspective

Most IT separations are followed up by an IT integration, many IT integrations are preceded by an IT separation. The issues of both perspectives are the same. Much of it is a question of documentation and organization. Everything gets a lot easier if you know what you’ve got and what you really need.

It is, however, not an easy challenge: Shared data centres must be separated, while separate data centres should be joined. Shared applications must be broken down, while complying with data protection requirements and various applications should be merged with own data bases, etc.

“We’ll Just Follow the Blueprints!”

One might think that IT integrations or separations are done so frequently in some companies that there should be actual procedural blueprints, skilled experts and that one’s own IT department should be well prepared in terms of documentation. All the information needed for integration or separation is on hand and of high quality after a number of iterations and projects are pulled through professionally…

That is – unfortunately – not the case. Hardly any IT organisation exists that has the wherewithal to carry out a truly structured integration or separation. No preparation is done for the integration of one’s own IT and nobody can actually separate parts and hand them over in a structured manner. What can be done?

 

Divide and Rule: Documentation in 7 Workstreams for Success

Separate the task into manageable subtasks early – i.e. right from the start. A good approach – and not just for separation or integration – is a separation into individual workstreams, which align with contiguous areas.

#1 IT Infrastructure Services

That includes shared services, as well as IT assets from the areas of network, data centres and computing (CPU, storage, backup, etc.). These areas are well documented in most companies. In separations, documentation in the area of security is key.

#2 Applications & Data

Shared applications generally pose a special challenge. Application integration, as well as the interface points between applications are often neglected at the start. Shared data is generally a huge issue and more often than not poses a source of risk. It is never too early to develop and document data extraction and transformation concepts!

#3 Identity & Access Management (IAM)

While the separation of an active directory or an LDAP directory might still seem a relatively manageable challenge, the integration of two separate directory services may have already become an insurmountable stumbling block. And we’re not even touching on user management on application level or a company-wide SSO (Single Sign-On).

#4 Services for the End User

End user services often are a test of patience and dedication. Separation may be time-critical here, while integration is all about minimising costs.

#5 ITSM, Supplier Management & IT Governance

The importance of IT service management, supplier management and IT governance is often underestimated. While questions about the IT organisation are generally handled well and information is easily accessible, important data about suppliers and ITSM processes are much harder to come by. In case of separations that may pose a number of risks. Costs for integration increase.

#6 License Management

Once the separation process begins, you must know which licenses are available and which are still needed. Which licenses will you be able to continue using after a separation? What other licenses will be needed?

#7 IT Information Management

IT information management is the glue that holds it all together and the basis for all decisions. The earlier you begin collecting IT information, the more comprehensive and reliable that information basis becomes, the more effective and efficient your IT integration or separation will be.

 

Project Phases, Start of the IT Project & Information Management

You are one of those who don’t have comprehensive background knowledge or already do IT information management? You can’t afford to procrastinate – start on the very first day and take advantage of the pre-signing phase! 

Implement the necessary workstreams as early as possible, assign key roles to your best personnel and build up knowledge about your IT. Formulate goals: Start your IT information management and develop a high-level solution design.

The IT project phases can in part be run in parallel. The ‘as is’ analysis, for example, can start immediately and continue right into the transition phase. The rule of thumb in IT is: Better is the enemy of good.

 

Reliable Information Minimises Risks in Separations

Separation has its very own can of worms. At the very latest after a signing, buyers and sellers have very different points of view and follow their own objectives. The seller will start thinking about compliance and regulations regarding buyer access to systems and data very quickly. The buyer is suddenly confronted by risks regarding service accessibility based on insufficient information and a lack of qualifications. A good information basis is the only thing that can help here. The earlier qualified and reliable information can be on hand, the faster and better good decisions can be made.

 

Integration Shortfalls

While the main concern in separations is risks, it is mainly shortfalls that cause after-the-fact problems in integration. Incomplete IT integrations create a whole zoo of applications and systems. Anything that wasn’t structured before it was merged will cause long-term problems.

“Temporary solutions” are often the go-to procedure if there is not enough time or resources for a comprehensive integration. You should document these meticulously. Nothing is more permanent than a temporary solution. And afterwards, nobody can recreate the complexities. That doesn’t just mean more costs. Important adjustments to business areas and processes can only be done to a limited extent – they will be virtually paralysed.

 

Information is Everything

IT separations and integrations basically have one thing in common: The scope and quality of the information basis decide over success or failure. The premise is the same as in other areas like IT operations, cloud migration or an IT audit: The chances for success increase exponentially, the better you know your own IT and the more information is at hand. Knowledge – in this case about the IT – is a key prerequisite for effectiveness and efficiency.

Be proactive and start preparing early. A subdivision into so-called workstreams will be invaluable on your way to success.

 

IT Integration and Separation (PDF)
… and how documentation prevents pain.

Please send us an e-mail for questions or feedback: marketing@avato.net

Imprint
Date: July 2019
Author: Gregor Bister
Contact: marketing@avato.net
www.avato-consulting.com
© avato consulting ag – Copyright 2019.
All Rights Reserved.

Documentation Prevents Pain. 10 Tips on how to Master IT Audits.

Documentation Prevents Pain. 10 Tips on how to Master IT Audits.

Many companies find IT audits about as pleasant as a root canal treatment. Nobody likes them much. Not surprising, because even a best case scenario means that the IT audit will take up lots of valuable time. A failed IT audit is even worse, and can turn your work environment upside down in a flash. In some cases, a negative IT audit result could be read as an indication of a weak management.

The scope, quality and level of detail in documentation plays an increasingly important role in passing those dreaded audits. If you have an audit of your IT infrastructure, your policies and processes coming up, then a routinely conducted, active information management will guarantee a positive audit result. You just have to be well prepared.

 

Professional Audit Preparation

The best preparation regarding documentation is an active information management. Things will get tricky if documentation is only created and approved just ahead of the certification audit. You can bet the auditor won’t be impressed if he is presented with individual, standalone documents that nobody in the organisation is actually familiar with.

 

Documentation for a Constructive External Audit Situation

A key principal that applies most of all to external audits is: “First impressions are everything.” That depends heavily on the type, scope and quality of the documentation presented. Top criteria for this all-important positive first impression in terms of the documentation are:

  • Transparent, documentation-based responses to all questions posed to IT
  • The auditor is welcome to address members of the IT department directly, and these employees are familiar with the documentation and work in compliance with set rules
  • No cover-ups or incorrect information regarding the completeness of the documentation
  • The contact persons stated in the audit plan are available and familiar with the documentation

 

Audit Preparation

The preparation for an IT audit is an ongoing process and completely integrated in the daily routines, tasks and processes of the IT organisation. Ideally, this will prevent any need for a tremendous last-minute effort ahead of the IT audit.
These preparations include:

  • Integration of the entire IT organisation in IT information management, which should ideally include managers. Familiarise your organisation with the documentation and encourage all levels to contribute.
  • Continuous documentation improvement: Ensure regular, continuous adjustments and improvements of the documentation. This will lower overheads and save having to create new documentation at an inopportune moment.
  • Regular documentation assessments and comparisons with the actual infrastructure and processes is much more helpful than occasional complete reviews (internal audits) of the entire body of documentation.

 

Checklist

 

#1  How Well do you Really Know Your IT?

You should know everything there is to know about your IT. Auditors tend to dig deep and will almost always discover hidden inconsistencies.

Good online documentation will help answer virtually all questions. Nothing is more impressive during an audit than the ability to provide requested information at the drop of a hat.

#2  Audits of Your Service Providers are a Critical Issue

Make no mistake: the services your suppliers provide are audit-relevant. Do they know your policies and do they comply with them? How do you verify that compliance? What documentation about their services do you have at hand? In what way are suppliers included in your information management?

#3  Demonstrate That you Have Standardised IT Processes in Place and That you Have Established Relevant Work Instructions

Auditors love automation and are more likely to have a much closer look at manual processes. There are, however, a number of processes for which automation would not be an economically viable option. Demonstrate that you take your policies seriously and ensure a standardised, policy-compliant work method in your teams, based on clear work instructions for critical areas.

#4  Exception Handling

Your IT is highly standardised and automated. There will still be some applications and systems, for which exceptions apply. Your system may require an obsolete software release or an insufficient patch level to function properly.

Demonstrate how you handle these exceptions and document in detail, why this individual case must stand as is and what additional measures you have implemented because of that.

#5  Be Quick on Your Feet if the Documentation is Lacking

You must be able to respond quickly if you fail the audit due to gaps in your documentation. You must be able to demonstrate that you have the ability and the competence within your organisation to create high-quality solutions fast.

#6  View an IT Audit as What it Actually is: Professional Input to Help Along Your IT and Your IT Documentation.

Look at it positively: An auditor is like a dentist – who can be really very helpful over time. Think of the auditor as another stakeholder and include him at an early stage. The basic principle: Prevention is better than drilling.

Auditors are generally very experienced and are familiar with standards and best practices. That can be very useful – especially with regards to processes and security issues.

#7  Your Teams Know Their Stuff and are Well Prepared to Answer Questions

The highest level of preparedness for your teams stems from a well functioning, established information management. Then your employees will be completely familiar with your IT processes and will be continuously working on the optimisation of procedures and the documentation. That is when the audit will be like a visit to the dentist should be: just a routine check-up with no treatment needed.

#8  Conduct Your Information Management Properly, Without Single Purpose Documents

Creating documentation specifically for an audit is not just costly and time-consuming, it may also be a risky strategy. Single purpose documents are quickly recognised for what they are: Documents created under time pressure, with little or no congruence with actual practices that nobody in the organisation is familiar with. Employees will react nervously, when faced with targeted questions from the auditor. You see, the similarities continue: Brushing your teeth just once before you visit the dentist won’t really make any difference.

#9  Using Information Management to Handle Complexities

It is becoming increasingly more complex, and the volume of internal guidelines and processes grows alongside that complexity. IT information management is the way forward in handling these complexities, so that your employees continue to understand and manage them on the one hand, and on the other that the time and effort spent on documentation doesn’t become a problem in itself.

Rule of thumb: The leaner the IT guidelines and processes are in a company, the easier they are to implement and the more successful you will be in your IT audit.

#10  Describing IT Continuity and DR Exactly

Disaster recovery is a central issue of IT audits. In the case of financial service providers, various regulatory requirements exist to ensure a recovery of their IT systems. Elaborate on these processes in detail and make sure that these processes are known in the organisation ahead of an audit, so that at the very least quick access to all current versions can be guaranteed.

 

Summary

IT is a complex thing. The integration of cloud services and the rising number of service providers continuously add to the requirements you face in an IT audit. IT information management is the string that will lead you out of the IT audit labyrinth. Or, in keeping with the simile we used above: IT information management is pain prevention.

Plus you save a lot of money and create strategic added value.

10 Tipps wie Sie IT-Audits meistern (PDF)
Dokumentation vermeidet Schmerzen.

If you have any questions or ideas simply write us an email: marketing@avato.net

Imprint: 
Date: June 2019
Authors: Gregor Bister, Jennifer Gitt
Contact: marketing@avato.net
www.avato-consulting.com
© 2019 avato consulting ag
All Rights Reserved.

5 Basic Rules for a Good Meta Data Schema

5 Basic Rules for a Good Meta Data Schema

Automation is today’s hot topic. The never ending flood of information makes it impossible to maintain each file and each dataset individually – and never mind manually. Meta data are the key to the solution of this problem. They allow the grouping and batch processing of information in accordance with specified properties. To ensure the smooth operation of such processes, meta data must be captured in a structured form. This article explains why a structure, i.e. a meta data schema, is so important and what needs to be considered in the development of such a schema.

 

Why do I Need a Meta Data Schema?

Machines are not designed to process unstructured data – be it for simple, short scripts or KIs – because they lack an ability for logical interpretation. A specific, fixed structure is needed for their use. The more context there is for a particular bit of information and the more precise the definition of its structure and meaning, the lower the effort will be for automated processing and the more reliable and meaningful the results will be. A meta data schema is basically nothing more than a definition with the purpose to make such contexts available for machine processing.

However, a schema isn’t just good for the use of meta data – it is also beneficial for data capture. Since a meta data schema defines what data must look like, many errors can be detected at the time of input of the data and it doesn’t matter if that is done manually or (partially) automatically. In addition to avoiding errors, a good schema will also reduce the amount of work you have to put in, because when the meaning and the relationships of the meta data is clearly defined, then much of that data can be captured automatically or can be generated from other (meta) data.

The bottom line: A meta data schema…

  • …facilitates effective, automated data processing and maintenance;
  • …increases the quality of the meta data and with it their value;
  • …reduces costs for capturing the meta data.

 

What Makes a Good Meta Data Schema?

The best schema is one that supports data input and data processing the most, and makes these steps easiest. A few basic rules will help you to develop a schema that optimally matches your data and its purpose.

 

1.      Defining the Area of Use

What type of data should the meta data schema be applied to? A schema that matches all available data will also allow the processing of all the data with the same automatisms. Very varied data, on the other hand, will also have very few properties in common. Think about what kind of data you want to process (manage, search) together. That data set should share one schema. Then the schema will not have to consider other types of data and formats. There is, of course, no reason not to reuse parts of the schema for other data.

 

2.      Selecting the Right Fields

A meta data schema consists of so-called ‘fields’, whereby each field contains exactly one defined information. It is well worth your while to think about which fields you will need and where you want the data to come from. The key question here is: What will be the purpose of the meta data? It is a complete waste of time to define a field that isn’t needed at all. The same goes for fields that can’t be filled out for a large portion of the datasets, because mining that information would be too costly or not possible at all.

The data should be split into its smallest possible components, because it is much easier and less error-prone to join together two clearly defined fields, than it is to break down the content of a field. You should therefore check for each individual field you want to use, whether it may combine two or more independent bits of information. You could always add another filed in case of a combination of data that is frequently needed in this form – but that field should then be populated automatically to prevent contradictions.

 

3.      Don’t Re-Invent the Wheel

Meta data has been in use for quite some time and in many areas. The necessity for data exchange has resulted in the development of more robust, well-documented meta data schemas and exchange formats, which cover most of the requirements of a specific sector. Using a standard schema has a lot of advantages. Data provided by external sources can be used immediately and without any modifications, provided the same standard scheme was used for its capture. There are various tools and masks available for commonly used schemas, which further simplify data maintenance. And of course you save a lot of time and effort you would have used for creating your own schema. When you therefore find that iiRDS, Dublin Core or MODS offers everything you need, then choosing one of these will in all likelihood be a better idea than developing your own schema tailored specifically to suit your data.

 

4.      As Tight and Exact as Possible

The fewer selection options and freedoms a schema offers, the better. Every selectable option represents an opportunity for human error. Specify exactly, what information must be entered in a field and how. Data types, drop-down lists and regular expressions (a language to describe character strings) are a great help here. You avoid typos and make sure that identical information always appears in the same format. But there are even simpler ways that offer plenty of benefits. In a “Ranking” field, you only allow a numerical input of 1 to 6. A short explanation of the exact type of information this field refers to can be very helpful.

 

5.      Optional or Mandatory

If you are planning to capture meta data automatically or using experts, then it must be mandatory to fill out all fields of which you know that they apply for all instances. Every person has a name, every file a format and every digital text an encoding. Should one field remain empty, then the dataset cannot be processed by all processes accessing that dataset or will at least require special treatment. That will significantly impact the benefit of the schema.

There is, however, an exception, in which a limiting of the schema by keeping the number of mandatory fields as high as possible can also be a drawback: that will be the case if the meta data is entered manually by people, whose main responsibility is not the maintenance of that data. Too many mandatory tasks will mean a lot of time spent, which can lead to a drop in motivation and with it to careless, faulty and even inadvertent input. Where that is the case, it may become necessary to think about how much time spent on data input makes sense to ensure the best possible data quality.

Optional fields will, of course, also be useful in automated data capture processes. A “Most recent renovation” field will be a good idea in a meta dataset about a house – but will not be applicable for a new construction. Optional fields make sense, where the fact that an input is missing also represents a statement.

 

In addition to all these basic rules, the rule of implementability must also be applied. Should the cost for the creation and maintenance of a drop-down list be simply too high or the technical implementation of the perfect schema would take too much time, then some compromise in terms of specificity will be unavoidable. But anyone, who right from the start isn’t really sure about what the perfect meta data schema should be, will find it difficult to implement the best possible schema anyway.

Done with your meta data schema? Then it is time for the next step: Capturing! Or better stick with Create?

5 Basic Rules for a Good Meta Data Schema (pdf)

For further questions send an email to: marketing@avato.net

Imprint

Date: June 2019
Author: Isabell Bachmann
Contact: marketing@avato.net
www.avato-consulting.com
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