In 2015, information, or data with meaning, has transitioned from a commodity to a utility. In the minds of those creating a digital first life — where information flows to and from those who need it without access or permission worries — information access is the thing. Just as you do not consider the source of the power when you turn on a light switch or charge your mobile device today, in a digital first life you may not know the source or the effort required to deliver information anywhere or anytime you need it.
A digital life does not simply appear. An unknown collection of people are required to create and maintain the information utility that supports a digital life. From software developers to router engineers to service delivery architects, dozens to thousands of people are working behind the scenes 24 hours a day to install and maintain the infrastructure that makes anytime, anywhere access to information possible. These highly trained engineers, managers and administrators not only work to enable information as a utility, they also work secure it so that the right person gets the right information to make the right decision, but nothing more.
Today, securing information and access are big trends in training, auditing and information architecture. However, securing information creates organization conflict, digital discontinuity or other misalignments because everyone wants everything on every device without a single login. Which is the opposite of secure. Moreover, technology leaders who directly benefit from open information sharing have declared privacy dead, but the lawyers and courts do not agree.
So here are the components and constraints of the desired digital first life: anytime, anywhere access to any information, as well as laws, user agreements and 1990’s data isolation architectures designed to protect people, even when they do not know they need protection. These elements create a dichotomy between what is possible in a digital first life and the foundational systems that define current information realities, digital or otherwise. Good or bad, the constraints that define the current status of a digital life have to be made ready before the desire for a digital first life can evolve into reality.
The digital first life can further evolve through proper systems design and training. To enable information anywhere, information system architects and software designers must rethink the connection between an authentic user and the information required for a role, a project, or other time- and function-based needs. Rather than restricting a person to one system or collection of systems, the person in a specific role might have access to some information in all systems. Then by filling many roles simultaneously, the person receives the right data to transform all of the varied sources into information, data with meaning.
The digital first architectures and platforms almost exist today but require effort and expense to implement as well as trained staff to monitor and maintain. Much like any other utility, the customer rarely understands the investment, effort, training, skill and expertise required to support a need at the flick of a switch or the swipe of a screen. With effort, user and role access can be designed into systems, rather than added on, to create new information access architectures that support a digital first life so that information flows to and from those who need it without access or permission worries.