This week I've been looking back over my Computing PhD thesis from 19991 and reflecting on what has changed over the past 18 years. At the time there was a major focus on the need to archive, manage and reuse paper documents within organisations, with the merest hint that people may in the future be able to do a full day's work away from the office. [Twilight Zone music plays, briefly]

While my thesis is quite a dry read2 it was clear 18 years ago that the Organisational Memory Problem was a big challenge at the time and I believe it's as challenging now as it was then. It goes something like this:

"Information pertinent to the task at hand has passed through the organisation. Was this information captured? If so, how can it be efficiently retrieved and brought to bear on the present task?"

We might express this problem as various questions from different perspectives:

  1. Where is information about this job/client stored and how can I access it from here? (storage and retrieval)
  2. What do we know about this job/client/business process? (data capture/human resource)
  3. What else do we know about this client/prospect that could be helpful? (CRM/research)
  4. How important is this client to us? (reporting/KPIs)
  5. What will we do when our Operations Director is hit by a bus? (the unexpected)

Your company might be doing well with all five of these, you might be struggling with a couple or you may never have asked yourself any of these questions.

While no organisation is perfect, a growing organisation is one that not only grows in size but also in structure and systems. A learning organisation is one that not only learns how to deliver better products and services but also learns how to manage the complexity within. With IT as an enabler rather than a controller, a company's organisational memory not only becomes a tangible asset but also helps the company move into different markets… which is often the fun bit, when done well.

Whatever stage you're at, Thirdrock can help. We combine business consultancy, software development and cloud technology, working with you to create systems that work for you. We understand the needs of growing organisations and can help unify your data, team, processes, workflow and reporting. We can work within your budget and in good humour. Please get in touch to ask for a chat or a demo of our work... we would love to hear from you.

PS. I was watching a promo video from Andy Harrington (a leading public speaker) last week and he said this, which says the same thing differently: "If you're going to build something that lasts, you've got to stop doing it yourself. You've got to build a company – a team of people around you. You've got to build products and services that don't need you; that don't require you to be there. Because the day you're gone, the whole thing falls apart."

(1) "A Model-Driven Architecture for Enterprise Document Management, Supporting Discovery and Reuse" – it's a real pager-turner
(2) but I passed!