By Alicia Puritt
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine One of my personal goals is to make sure I have travelled to more places than my age. It’s one of the ways I try to keep expanding my comfort zone. The strategy has served me well so far, and in a couple months I am going to have the opportunity to travel to El Salvador and Guatemala for the first time. Those will be countries 26 and 27 on my quest. Travelling itself is always a fantastic adventure for me—it never matters whether it is with my family, by myself, with friends or in a travel group—each adventure offers something different and worth experiencing. There are so many learning lessons from travel and not least is how it gets your organizational skills up to snuff pretty quickly.Interestingly enough, travel planning highlights what many information managers get wrong. You can’t know what to pack unless you know what it is you’re going to do. Once the business requirements have been defined, I can figure out the functional requirements for my suitcase. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I’ve had the opportunity to travel to places around the world that are so different from my personal experience, it has left my head swimming. Then there have been others that feel just like home, but are in a different country. What has been consistent throughout my travels comes down to a simple discovery: the more places I visit, the less strange the world seems. Oh, it is still new and interesting, but with each new adventure, the world seems a little less different. For example, planning a trip to Europe is pretty familiar to me now. I roughly know the weather, the people, a few of the major languages, the cultural norms and what I can get away with while packing so that I don’t end up over-packing. Planning a trip to Asia still means a little more preparation because I don’t speak the major languages but it’s not as foreign as it was on my first trip. I “fit” better with the places that are similar to the places I have been before. This next trip to El Salvador and Guatemala is the first time to Central America for me, and I am super excited and in need of information gathering. I know the usual drill – get visas in order, make sure my vaccines are up to date, back up all my electronic devices that I plan to bring along, and check for the local weather forecasts. After that, I go to my primary sources (who have been there before) and ask for their experiences to give me more information—again, pretty straight forward. And here is where my brain helps my heart achieve what it wants. My heart wants the excitement and adventure of the new, and my brain wants it to go as smoothly as possible.
How to pack
One of the biggest factors when going on an adventure is packing appropriately. This coming trip is going to be in a backpacking style with a few other avid backpackers. I can’t bring two gigantic suitcases! We’re getting around on chicken buses and on the back of pick-up trucks, so simplicity is key. That means that what I pack for the trip has to cover a variety of different requirements. I love shoes; I have a small, OK, maybe not that small, collection of them as a matter of fact. That doesn’t mean that I can pack eight pairs on this trip. It means I need to know what my trip is going to include (volcano hiking, motorcycling, surfing, beach days, village sightseeing, kayaking, and party nights) and my backpack’s shoe capacity. The information architect in me has identified three very specific functional and business requirements for those shoes so I can begin with the premise that I can make do with three pairs of shoes. But there are a lot of other things that need to fit in that backpack too. The same business and functional requirements pertain to all the clothes I need to take.
Elegant design and packing rules
The basic rules for building any application, or packing any suitcase, remain the same: 1. Know what it is you want to do (business requirements) 2. Know how to do it (functional requirements) and 3. Know how to do it elegantly (technical requirements). Clarity? Well, as any of you who have ever packed for a holiday realize, clothes and shoes have to match. I can’t wear my blue shoes with my brown dress, even if they are designed for the same function. In this situation, the third step applies, that is planning must be elegant: is the application as small, as fast, and simple as it can be? When managing your information assets, elegant design simply means doing it now, and later, with the least possible administrative overhead. So for this trip, if I pick a colour theme, a neutral theme, and a standard theme, not only can I minimize what I pack, but it will all work together quite nicely. And that is essentially interoperability. We can all make sure we have the right functional items, but can you look good at the same time? And in business, the same lesson applies….
Packing light: an information management solution
What do I do for travelling light? I plan to pack some light hiking boots that can be worn for all my serious walking, hiking and motorcycling. I need a pair of fun flats for the night time fun and some urban sightseeing. Thirdly, I need a pair of flip flops for the beach and water fun. That’s just for my shoes—all of my packing planning is going to go through that process. I need to ￼make sure that all of my items are interoperable. As on any IM project where interoperability is key to the project’s success, my packing is critical to my trip success and enjoyment. I will have everything I need in one suitcase. And I will still be so impressed when I meet someone who has everything needed in just a carry-on bag. And what about you? How many suitcases or applications do you need to carry to get the job done?