The Three Ingredients of Enterprise Information Management

Information Management
Enterprise Information Management

There is no shortage of buzzwords that speak to the upside and downside of data.  Big Data, Data as an Asset, the Internet of Things, Cloud Computing, One Version of the Truth, Data Breach, Black Hat Hacking, and so on. Clearly we are in the Information Age as described by Alvin Toffler in The Third Wave. But yet, most organizations are not effectively dealing with the risks of a data-driven economy nor are they getting the full benefits of all that data. They are stuck in a fire-fighting mode where each information management opportunity or problem is a one-time event that is man-handled with heroic efforts. There is no repeatability. The organization doesn’t learn from prior lessons and each business unit re-invents similar solutions. IT projects are typically late, over budget, and under delivered. There is a way to break out of this rut.

The answer to the challenge requires three things. First is business leadership. Managing information is a business process and should not be left in the hands of IT.  Clearly you need IT experts, data modelers, software developers, and even data scientists to deal with all the technical details, but IT should not be leading the effort. Furthermore, managing information across an enterprise (rather than just managing it in individual business units) is a huge cultural shift. Just because you are the business unit that first captures or creates the data, it is not your data.  To maximize the value of information it needs to be distributed and shared which demands a new level of commitment and behavior. Driving these changes throughout an organization requires leadership – whether it comes from the top or from a grass-roots effort.

Second, you need an effective planning methodology. It must address a wide range of factors including business strategies, market forces, regulatory issues, country requirements, management incentives, partner channels, legacy infrastructure, and so on. It can’t be just any planning methodology. It needs to explicitly address the unique characteristics of data and all its varieties and flavors. Check out this article about a methodology successfully used at Cisco.

Third, there needs to compelling change event that demands an enterprise focus on information management.  The reason could be a data breach that puts the business at risk, acquisitions that present new opportunities, regulatory changes that demand attention or new product/service categories. If you are in a stable business whith little change, the first two drivers are not enough. There has to be a good reason for the pain and effort to transform an organization into one that is data driven.

In short, to establish an Enterprise Information Management (EIM) capability you need to WANT to do it, you need to know HOW to do it, and you need to have a REASON to do it.