A Brief Definition and History of Information Management

We live in the era of high speed, also applied to the exchange and management of information. Our era has its own language, its own jargon, if you’d like. For instance, we abbreviate a lot, expressing our logic focused on saving time and energy and on enhancing speed and efficiency. If I were to ask someone born in a different era than ours what IM stands for, for instance, what would that person reply? That it stands for ‘I am’? Maybe. That it stands for ‘important message’? That could also be an available option. But someone – anyone – living in the here and now might actually give the correct answer applied for the nowadays context, that correct answer that solves today’s puzzle: namely, that IM definitely stands for ‘information management’.

What is information management? Well, grosso modo, information management deals with compiling information received from one or various sources and redistributing it efficiently to audiences. What seems to be a rather simple procedure at the first sight actually acquires many more facets when considering the implications. Information management implies the organization, categorization, coordination, control, structuring and planning of information and the material it stands for, not to mention the processing, evaluation and rendering of accurate reports on what is actually going on during the process. Without all these, corporate functioning would not be possible today, as the whole tertiary system today depends on nothing else than information and the efficient management of it – this is what it is made of!

Information management has its own history, connected closely with the post-industrial society, the end of an era set on production and the beginning of the corporate era, set on service providers which base their activity on the exchange of information. In the 1970s it’s when the ‘nowadays’ were officially on; in other words, when the corporate era was officially on. It is when the working class heroes and small town boys became history and the corporate men in suits took over, from their glass and steel offices well-set in the global city, in the skyscrapers that reach towards the sky and endlessly, stubbornly try to defy it, never giving up. But back then it was only the beginning – and the beginning of information management as well. Back in those days, information management was in its germ phase, still bearing the meaning of file management. The 1970s were not digitalized; the world was still lying on paper – but not for long! Gradually, the miracle happened and the offices got stuffed not with writing machines, but with computers!

Switching to computers as the main working tool meant also a great change in what was called information management. Information was contained in a box, managed from a box, sent to another box and companies started to need more and more qualified employees to manage to play with this new ‘toys’ that seemed capable of doing anything at a press of a button in high speed as well. If in the 1970s anyone could have done information management – which actually translated back then as ‘file management’ -, in the 1990s things were already getting more complicated.

If in the 1990s information management could have still be dealt with by highly qualified employees of some companies, nowadays, in the 2000s and on, information management is already a service by itself provided by specialized  in data protection companies to fellow companies in the purpose of increasing efficiency and guaranteeing the high quality of the services provided, the security of the procedures and, of course, the high speed of the process as well.

Also, information itself changed in its nature and became what we know as data. Data in the computer is turning the information in mechanically, objectively, without the sprinkle of feeling and subjectivity that basically stand for the human error. Since the information once dealt with by humans, with their incumbent or recurrent uncertainties and insecurities that could have left way for mistakes, has been gradually turned into data through the intensive use of computers, nowadays information management also changed its course and stands for an activity on its own, also knows by some already as data management.

Information management (or data management) so much grew in importance that it is a field of expertise that stands on its own already. In case you care about the well-being on your company, you already know that you will need to contract the services of a specialized company in data management services, as data is the air that companies breathe today, just as information is what we feed ourselves on today as well.

I can only wish the reader to enjoy the present and embrace the future, while taking care of their data first!


5 thoughts on “A Brief Definition and History of Information Management

  1. Johnny,

    In my experience, information management and data management are both, pretty much, misunderstood.

    End users tend to think of data management as the technology stuff that the guys with the black boxes sort out. They only notice it when it goes wrong. Information management is most often a completely alien concept. Very few managers know or care to know what it means; and usually only pay attention when information in their business is becoming obviously unreliable.

    I think of IM as being in its “teenage years” because businesses tend to treat information in the same way as a typical (male) teenager treats his posessions. i.e. Mostly piled in the corner of their room in a haphazard fashion, sifted irregulaly on a monday morning (or saturday evening) to find the really important thing they need right now.

    Technology will no doubt help us all to develop and appreciate the advantages of good IM, and provide better tools to do the job. In the meantime, much like the parents of teenagers, we have to grin and bear it.

    Have a great day,


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