Over the last decade, the rise of highly capable mobile devices, low-cost wireless data and an increasingly globalised business environment have made connectivity a point of focus across all industry sectors. While it is generally raised in the context of communications, connectivity has an equally important relationship with information management.

The finance sector is ahead of the game in this area. With the majority of customer interactions now occurring online, businesses have a powerful incentive to promote and support connectivity as competitive advantage. As customer-facing connective technologies become commonplace, they are also increasingly used in-house to allow work units across the world to concurrently access the same information assets, collaborate, and stay on top of sudden market changes. When in-house connectivity is solid, financial organisations can expect to enjoy greater levels of efficiency, competitiveness and client satisfaction.

For government agencies, while support for public connectivity is increasing with the development of apps and other online interfaces, there are still internal challenges to connectivity with flow-on ramifications for the quality of information management across the whole of government. With the Australian Federal Government’s 2020 deadline for digitisation, many agencies are now enhancing their connectivity to support the increasing volume of electronic information being generated. Where connectivity problems do arise, however, is in interoperability between agencies. Interoperability refers to the compatibility of ICT systems (and the data they generate) across disparate work units. The current advantage of paper-based information workflows is that they do not produce any connectivity issues. But full, multi-agency digitisation raises questions about whether systems will be capable of communicating properly, whether indexing conventions will be universalised, and whether file formats will be unilaterally accessible. As the government’s Digital Continuity 2020 Policy explains, “interoperability [needs] to be planned, designed and integrated from the initial stages… there is still much to be done.”[1] For digitisation to actually enhance information management in government, current inter-agency connectivity challenges need to be properly addressed.

In healthcare, the quality of an organisation’s connectivity affects whether information is updated in real-time or on a delay, which in turn affects the quality of data accessibility across multiple patient points of contact. When medical staff have an always-on connection to patient records, for example, treatment can be rendered more quickly, which in turn improves clinical outcomes. As it stands, however, information is often difficult to reach due to poor connectivity within the health system. “Each time you pick-up a prescription, get bloodwork done, or visit the ER, your personal health information is putting down roots in different places,” says Tom Skelton, CEO of Surescripts. This results in “critical data that can’t be exchanged, caregivers who can’t properly communicate, and patients whose frustrations with an antiquated system are mounting.”[2] Enhanced healthcare system connectivity also has the potential to limit mistakes.

The construction and manufacturing industries rely on digital connectivity to communicate over expansive or disconnected worksites, and to remain responsive to changing situations so that adjustments can be made before any resources are wasted. The challenges to connectivity in these sectors are both internal and external. In some businesses, there is a dogged refusal to adopt non-paper workflows. This is understandable in light of paper’s practicality and convenience for in-person collaboration, but it can also hamper equity of connection to information across work units. Extraneous challenges to connectivity include “terminal immobility”, where information management systems are used that cannot be operated on different device types across multiple locations, and document format incompatibilities with mobile devices.

While achieving more effective connectivity is undeniably important, it also necessarily results in much larger volumes of information being generated and stored, which presents challenges for how it can then be best organised and accessed. Additionally, organisations never had to worry about paper files being hacked, but the rising tide of digital data from millions of connected customers creates a litany of new vulnerabilities.

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[1] National Archives of Australia, Digital Continuity 2020 Policy – October 2015, p. 6