Putting the Organization in Info Management

Cheeky screenshot of text exchange with a big, uncaring bank
You know this is a dramatization of the event because Big Bank doesn't answer texts after 5pm

Information management can be described using a couple of different but fairly similar models. The University of Washington’s iSchool depicts a triangle-shaped model of Information, People, and Technology. However, our readers might notice this blog examines the intersection of People, Information, Technology and Organizations (this model is explained in greater detail by Ping Zhang and Robert I. Benjamin in a paper titled “Understanding information related fields: a conceptual framework”).

We’re square rather than triangular, if you will.

Why do we add organizations? Because gathering and acting on information changes fundamentally in an organizational context. And sometimes, information behavior within an organization can be downright bizarre or frustrating.

Here’s an example: I went out to dinner a few weeks ago with friends, and my debit card was declined (happily, the waiter did his best to not treat me like a deadbeat). Since the card was declined for no obvious reason, I had a mystery on my hands. Unfortunately, customer service representatives (CSRs) at the national bank where I have my checking account were stumped as well.

Eventually, two weeks later – after three calls to the 1-800 customer service line, two trips to the local branch, and a dozen fact-finding missions through the online banking portal – my debit card was still not operational and I had been told it might be because the number had been stolen.

Think about all the failures in my interaction with the bank: I had several types of contact with different outlets of the organization, and none of them were satisfactory.  At least three CSRs were unable to access my account because I had opened my account in a different state (each of the representatives did sheepishly suggest I could open another account at the branch and then they could help me; I declined those offers).

I can do without naming the bank because this isn’t meant to be a Consumerist-type rant. But I think the episode does bring to light the irrational and haphazard information strategies organizations seem to employ. As a person and a consumer, I scratch my head when representatives of the bank cannot answer my questions or help me understand what is happening with my account access. But the madness of the situation also affects the bank employees: imagine the exasperation of working a front-line CSR job and having one’s hands tied routinely in a significant number of common issues.

But for the organization, this information strategy is working on some level. I imagine – the finance industry being particularly yoked by multiple layers of regulation – this national bank has designed its policies and procedures to serve up a savory dish of compliant operational spaghetti. Somewhere, a satisfied auditor completes an X on a checklist when a CSR in Washington cannot access my account, what with its Massachusetts provenance.

This is operational reality in the modern banking industry, and I mostly understand why my encounter with the bank was so dissatisfactory. However, I think such encounters are at the very least opportunities for learning in organizations. Holistic customer experience (a process of design that includes all touch points in dealing with customers, or even vendors, of organizations) should focus on tasks vital to customers at all service delivery points.

Here at infoscussion, we believe information management model has four facets – and that an organization’s needs can be separate from, but equal to, those of the people involved with the organization.

8 thoughts on “Putting the Organization in Info Management

  1. Nick Malone says:

    To add my two cents to Jordan’s explanation of why organizations are central pillar of Information Management, It’s not just that organizations have different information needs than people. Being in an organization changes the way people interact with information at a fundamental level. As a member of an organization an individual gains access to information they might not otherwise have had. At the same time they also pick up constraints on what they can and can’t do with that information. This is analogous to how technology can open up new sources of information and at the same time restrict what we can and can’t do with it.

  2. Having experienced a similar thing (denied debit card use due to possibility of compromised account), my biggest frustration was the lack of communication from my bank. It took me about a day to figure out what happened (They sent my replacement debit card to my permanent address, my mum’s house). And even though I’m supposed to be receiving only electronic correspondence, I never received an email.

    The whole thing could have worked as intended – they send me an email saying “check your snail mail”, which makes sense because you know what? They also send me regular spam snail mail, and I almost never open anything from them because I receive my statements online. Technically I thought that I wouldn’t receive anything important from my bank in the mail, and that everything would have an email (because of the preferences I’ve indicated).

    I guess this isn’t really a good comment, mostly it’s just a continuation of the rant. But I think this kind of issue is reflective of the fact that it’s a continuous need of all types of organizations to try to be on the same page of expectations/understanding/information as their customers.

    1. Nick Malone says:

      I can’t even count how many times I’ve missed important letters from my bank & investment companies because 99% of what they send me is junk. That’s a big messaging problem. If you’re gonna send us junk that’s not important you need to highlight the important stuff somehow. That’s marketing getting in the way of good service for ya. Stinks.

    2. Jordan Eschler says:

      In some ways, unfortunately, it’s advantageous to the bank to have you miss important information. When banks were deregulated, their best source of income became overdraft fees. This is unfortunate all around, I think, because it just doesn’t make for consumer-friendly policies, and the banks are forced to execute short-sighted income strategies.

      I firmly believe responsible banking practices should not be just for the wealthy. Thanks for your comment, Emily!

  3. I think this brings up not only the argument of access verses security but also letter of the law verse spirit of the law in regards to Audits. But that is a post for a different time. Interesting debate the is constantly being debated in the security world.

    1. Jordan Eschler says:

      I definitely agree with you, Mike, and it took some whittling to keep the scope of this post down to a manageable length (and not a screed about deregulation, fairness to consumers, and financial responsibility). I think that’s because money is such a personal subject, but somehow we’ve managed to make banking as impersonal an industry as we can. There’s a lot to be said here! And you’re the info security guy… 🙂

  4. Yunju says:

    I only have one comment to add on this tread. I don’t know why one national bank uses different systems in different states so I can’t transfer monney to a CA account. The varity of states law and federal law still amazes me even though I’ve been here for nearly two years.

    1. Jordan Eschler says:

      Hey Yunju! Thanks for the comment. Sometimes, the different systems/different states has to do with how a bank came to expand into the state. If a national bank buys a large regional bank, then they inherit a system that takes years to convert. (Like Chase with WaMu.)

      However, if we’re talking Massachusetts or California, that has more to do with state regulations, which are totally wacky. (“Wacky” is a technical term, obviously. And neither of these reasons were good enough for me when I had my troubles!)

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