Principle #5: Information has a status

Information has a status

This is the fifth blog of a series regarding Information Management principles: Information has a status. Once you have found information it can be very helpful to understand the status of the information*. For example an operator of potentially dangerous equipment should be able to find and use the latest approved work instruction or financial data to be shared with a shareholder has been checked thoroughly.

This implies that a process is in place that determines the status of the information. This process may have varying levels of rigidity and thoroughness depending on the business needs and obligations. In some cases a peer review might be sufficient or even no review at all. In other cases several functions need to review and approve
the information including an auditable registration of the reviews and

In order for status to be meaningful a company-wide definition should be present. The status information can have should be clear. A simple** example for documents (of course there are
variations possible):

  • Draft: work in progress, not ready to be used
  • In Review: being reviewed by one or more parties; potentially ready to used
  • Approved: has been approved by one or more accountable parties; ready for use
  • Obsolete: information is not current anymore; do not use anymore

The level of system support for the review and approval processes may vary from application to application. However the systems should at least support the recording of the status of information. In an ideal world all application would be flexible enough to use the same terms, in reality sometimes it is needed to lump together different terms for example “Working in Progress” and “Draft”.

Like with most of the other principles co-workers have a responsibility in determining the status of information. Co-workers need to be aware that they provide insight into the usefulness of the information for others and have a responsibility to provide quality information to others. Managers needs to set standards when a certain status can be obtained and which type of review and approval process is required to progress information to the next level.

There are also cases where a status has no real value because the information is evolving continuously. For example a document that contains information about market developments or the lunch menu. Recognizing these cases is important as well because the organisation will have set expectations to co-workers here as well.

*) This blog post refers to the status of information. There are also other types of status possible in relation to information for example whether information was published, distributed, referenced, accessed, etc. This type of status does not refer to the information itself but the usage of the information.

**) These are the main ‘archetypes’ in my opinion. Some may consider “In Review” as unnecessary.