Information systems tend to be hierarchical, agile, or ad hoc in nature. The structure kind of depends on the cadence of information of your work environment and industry. In some industries information moves fast, and in other industries the pace is much slower.

In theory, everyone wants fast and precise. In reality, it is not that simple. Fast information environments might have elements that are very accurate…Scanners, barcodes, inventory are all real time sort of, except when a mistake throws them for a loop. Slower information environments tend to have more organizational layers and more hierarchy in their information systems.

Hierarchical systems tend to be slower but more accurate, However, mistakes may stay undiscovered for years lost in the hierarchy.

Agile systems will share information quickly, but the documentation may be less thorough and some things will get lost. And pretty much anything goes in an ad hoc system.

Pace of Change

Technology does not really move that fast, and organizations tend to move slower than that. In general more evolution than revolution. Relational databases were the cool kid on the block in the 1980s and are still pretty much the core of everything today. They may be faster and able to handle more data, but the fundamental approach to data is still the same.

Change is hard and changing information management practices is even harder. Once you start using technology for something it is very hard to stop using it. Any proposed change to a technology platform is met with skepticism by resistant users. I remember wondering what was wrong with these people. “Can’t they see how great this is? They are only worried because they think they are going to lose their job,” I would think to myself.

Having worked with technology as long as I have, I now see that those worries were not unfounded. They were right to be concerned. Lock-in and dependence on one platform once you start using it are real.

There is no such thing as real data portability. You might be able to export and convert the data, but format changes and inconsistencies are present in every data migration process. Not to mention all the other things going on in the organization that are bound to be met with some resistance as well.

The continuum from hierarchical, agile or adhoc is not absolute. Few organizations are entirely run in one way or the other. So things are hierarchical, others are more agile and others are ad how.