Don’t control information flow. Liberate it.

February 11, 2013 6:00 AM EST

Big data brings new meaning to the idea that “knowledge is power." But how does an organization turn information into knowledge and knowledge into power? The answer is clear: through information sharing, through collaboration.

But how does collaboration transform information into power? Merely making documents available on a shared drive doesn’t work. That’s why organizations are embracing collaborative workflows and social media techniques: they invite the open sharing of valuable content and meaningful ideas – not just filenames. True collaboration leads to conversation and insight, to inspiration and fulfillment – and to faster and better decisions.

©iStockPhoto.com/Steve Shepard

Many organizations resist the free flow of information and exhibit tendencies that can seriously undermine the effectiveness of any collaboration initiative. For example, the IT function may exert too much control over how information is accessed and how it flows throughout the organization. There’s no doubt that government regulations, privacy concerns and the protection of intellectual property require control of certain types of information. However, this doesn’t have to turn IT into an information fortress that severely restricts the flow of all information and thwarts “bring your own device” (BYOD) initiatives.

When organizations restrict information flow and reject BYOD, they risk significant declines in productivity. They also risk a disgruntled workforce that feels it’s being denied the ease-of-use and productivity benefits of greater access to information and familiar, comfortable devices.

The solution is to deploy collaboration platforms that not only support the free flow of information, but also provide structure and intelligence. These platforms don’t focus on controlling people and their devices. Instead they focus on managing data and the processes around it. Smart collaboration platforms should:

  • Understand the information on them and enable the application of rules to the ownership and sharing of that information, both inside and outside the organization
  • Provide version control to centralize and secure a “single source of the truth” while making the latest version of documents easily available
  • Maintain a complete audit trail of all activity to ensure compliance and pre-empt disputes
  • Include robust metadata search capabilities to make searches fast and easy
  • Scale to support massive file stores and huge file sizes while delivering levels of performance that ensure an optimal user experience – and therefore facilitate broad adoption

Organizations considering solutions for information sharing and collaboration should focus on liberating teams with easy access to more information – without sacrificing data security or risking regulatory violations. By adopting a smart collaboration platform that does this, organizations can safely and confidently empower their teams to be more productive and creative, leading to better decision making and increased ROI.