What is the information problem?

/ en/ article /problems_en.phpSubjects: sgml, xml, documents, operational information, platform-independent, standard

Nowadays, most organisations have an information system (database) in which business-critical information is stored and managed. Such systems mainly contain financial data and data about stocks, sales results, etc., also referred to as 'factual information'.

Problematic information?

The database system is used for the structural storage and accessibility of an estimated 30% of important operational information. The remaining 70% can be found in documents usually stored as paper copies in filing cabinets or, increasingly often, in digital form on the hard disk of a PC or network server. These documents contain information about widely varying subjects, such as business strategy, objectives, marketing plans, project information, procedures and guidelines, manuals, research reports, etc.

The manner in which this information is stored means that it is only suitable to be printed out. When information in one or several of these documents is necessary for an objective other than the original one, it is bothersome - and often time-consuming and costly - to sift the right information from these documents and make them available for publication via another medium, such as CD-ROM or the Internet.

Even if over time there were no new word-processing programs or different releases of such software, it is hard work to make a newly created document look like an integrated whole. Such activities take up much valuable time. It may even be that the only feasible method is to rewrite or re-enter the text.

This problem is becoming even more complex for organisations that have several sites or have started to work in a partnership. In view of their composition, it is very important that such organisations can share and exchange mutual information in an efficient manner.

Information problem

The modern economy requires organisations to have rapid access to and the ability to distribute information both internally and externally. In this context, they are also expected to make information available in various ways, i.e. through newsletters in the form of paper documents, or as electronic documents that can be published on CD-ROM, via e-mail or on the Internet or an extranet/intranet.

Technology Bubble

In addition to the processing of information, it is also important that the presentation of information (its form and composition) is unequivocal and easily accessible. The most difficult aspect of this is that factual information and textual information must be combined. These developments have meant that the conventional 'document' now has a new significance and a new role. More and more, a document will have 'dynamic' aspects and must be composed from several sources.

This new demand for the rapid and effective supply of information poses new requirements on the process of information creation, information-processing and the possibilities for reuse.

Solutions to be found

One of the main conditions for providing an effective solution is that the information should no longer depend on a specific software program or type of platform. This condition was established as early as the 1980s, and has led to a standard technology (SGML?) which allows information to be described in a way that is structured and independent of environments.

Since the SGML standard is rather complex - and therefore its implementation within an organisation may be designated as too costly - SGML has so far mainly been applied in large industries that frequently distribute a lot of highly reliable information. Thanks to this technology, especially the aircraft and automotive industries have been able to realise enormous savings on the production and management of such information as the very sizeable manuals required for this type of complex product.

The advent of simple to apply, SGML-based standardXML? brings platform-independent information within the reach of smaller and less publication-oriented organisations and institutions.

The trend is certainly not new, and has certainly not been unnoticed by software suppliers. Organisations find it increasingly difficult to make a selection from the growing offer of software packages - especially if the organisation wants a system that is both reliable and accurately tailored to the situation and possibilities of the organisation. An additional problem is that commercially available software packages can only be used if the information is already highly structured.

In order to provide an effective answer, the entire process of information-processing, from creation to range, must be studied so as to establish the solution that best fits the specific situation. Simply selecting a software package is not enough.

Diderot Track specialises in solving problems that involve the storage, processing and reuse of information.

Finding solutions

First, a thorough survey must be made of the actual information use as well as the planned use of information.

The information must then be designed and structured in such a way that it can be stored independent of the media, form of presentation, or hardware and software used, and can then be processed into all desired forms of presentation and media. Implementing precise and semantic structures based on official international standards will guarantee that the information remains useful for a long time and keeps its intrinsic value.

The main point of departure must be that the existing approach and procedures are taken into account as much as possible. The reason for this is they were created in order to realise the operations and primary objective of the organisation. The manner of information-processing must agree with the objective of the organisation.

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