Home Error and Accuracy in the Read/Write Enterprise

Error and Accuracy in the Read/Write Enterprise

Employee participation and information overload are two of the most common concerns regarding enterprise 2.0 adoption, but Carl Frappaolo, writing at Information Architected, highlights a significantly greater concern: accuracy of information. The problems of cultivating collaboration and creating, finding and filtering information are secondary to the problem of ensuring that the information that both employees and the public access is up-to-date and factually accurate. Fortunately, read/write technologies can be a boon to the correction of error in the enterprise.

Frappaolo makes a surprisingly relevant reference to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, comparing BP’s PR spin to incorrect information in enterprise content management:

I keep my outrage and disgust about this entire situation in check – the point I want to raise here is this, if left unchecked and un-managed, garbage such as this could potentially be retrieved as “fact.” Content authentication and source identification are critical to a comprehensive ECM strategy.

Internet and intranet sites alike have the potential to provide access to a wealth of content, but can contain “garbage” among the “jewels”, garbage as rank and lethal as the oil “spill” itself. (OK I snuck that in.)

Consumers of content need to be diligent in filtering garbage from “fact”, or be assured, as is the case with our client going forward, that systems are in place to control publication. I am not advocating censorship, but ECM systems need to provide some approach to quality control, tailored to the scope and needs of individual situations. Fact checking, authority and credentials of authors, and/or providing clear and blatant identification of authorship are all steps that can be taken to at least let the reader decide what is content and what is “garbage”.

But, in the work place, deliberate deception isn’t the the most common source of incorrect or misleading information – human error is. And mistakes are inevitable. In a true “read/write enterprise” employees are not only empowered to contribute information, but to draw attention to and correct false information. Unlike a binder on a dusty shelf, a corporate wiki can be instantly updated with correct information if an error, or need for clarification, is found.

Also, the corporate intranet, employee manual and other formal documentation probably aren’t the enterprise’s only repositories of knowledge – employees’ minds often hold far more organizational information than any physical or digital information system. And employees transmit that information verbally, sometimes in trainings but often in informal ways. And when information travels through imperfect, noisy channels – like word of mouth or gossip – error creeps in. If a group of employees receive false information and spread it around, it can take days, weeks or even years for someone to realize the mistake and try to let the right employees know.

When discussions are made public, searchable, and – as Frappaolo calls for – attributed, it becomes much easier to transmit information accurately and trace down the source of incorrect information. A correction can be mentioned in a discussion thread or appended to a document immediately, hopefully before false information becomes ingrained in an employees consciousness.

For example, if an employee asks a procedural question on the company’s microblog, they can receive answers from people outside their immediate area and department – and managers can see how the question was answered and give a prompt and authoritative correction to any mistaken answers. In this case, errors can become useful learning experiences instead of of malevolent contagions.

It may take years for organizational culture to make the shift from the proverbial water cooler to participatory digital media (and unfortunately, this paradigm may not translate well to news media), but the sooner it happens the sooner information can be codified and corrected.

Photo by o b s k u r a

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