8 Things You Need to Know to Manage the Explosion of Information
The explosion of information is making way for a new strategy to align business policies with people and technology. The following steps are my take on ways in which organizations can be successful in creating and implementing intelligent information management practices in this challenging environment.
Obtain senior executive sponsorship and cross-organizational involvement.
This is the cornerstone for the sustainable success of an intelligent information management strategy. A new strategy will involve investments and organizational changes. Without active and visible senior executive support and commitment, any strategy or plan will be set for failure from the beginning.
Since most organizations consist of federated yet independent business functions or silos, it is important to involve all major constituencies at all stages - from definition through to implementation and ongoing monitoring of the business success metrics.
Paper is still cool: organizations need to leverage best practices from the physical world.
Information management is not new. We have been managing information in one form or another since the birth of civilization. What is new is the electronic aspect of it. In nearly every organization, there are people who have been managing paper records for years. They understand how to index, classify, distribute, and retain information – they are usually known as records managers, archivists, and librarians. Organizations need to leverage their domain knowledge and experience to the fullest.
It is crucial to understand that you cannot simply adopt the old policies and processes and make them electronic – you will need to adapt them. For example, policies and processes for handling paper memos will not work for emails that have a different order of magnitude and contain a plethora of irrelevant content. There's a lot of "white noise" in emails that doesn't exist in the paper world -- rarely did someone type a memo to say, "let’s grab a coffee."
Define the policies that will govern your enterprise information.
This is the most critical phase of executing a successful strategy. Policies need to be flexible to allow the organization to be agile and respond to changing markets, customer needs, business partner ecosystems, and similar business changes. Policies need to be owned and executed by the business and supported by technology. When defining policies, remember that not all information is created equal; one needs to identify the information assets that deliver business value to the organization – information that has business, decision, risk, or organizational impact. An example of such information includes legal documents, product catalogs, balanced scorecards, and key performance metrics.
Define the processes you will use to manage the information.
Business processes define how the policies are implemented and executed across the organization. While this step seems obvious, it is often overlooked. Process flows must mirror business flows, and they must be molded to meet the users’ needs, not the other way around. There are many examples of failed information projects where the technology attempted to force users to work in an ineffective, rigid workflow. A key metric for defining the success of processes is that they must improve business productivity.
Stay in constant communication and use a shared vocabulary.
As with any major change program, a dialogue is most important. Be cautious not to overlook that certain terms mean different things to different people. It's important to clearly define and document what is meant at all times.
Educate, educate, and educate again.
Employee training is often underestimated, and it is critical to user acceptance. Without training, policies will be ignored, processes will be short cut, or, even worse, bypassed.
In one such example, a policy was communicated by email that states, "No MP3 player content is to be stored on desktop or laptop computers." IT then runs a script every night to delete any MP3 files it finds. However, users want to listen to music while they work, so each morning they re-download their MP3 files. What they don’t know is that the reason the policy was brought in was to reduce corporate liability and risk from potentially pirated copies.
Best practices for training include a planned strategy from the beginning of the project. Human resources must be consulted at this stage in order to receive the necessary support and funding. In addition, training must be repeatable in order to resonate, as well as support changes in regulations and compliance.
Recognize that technology is a mean, not the end.
Technologies should help implement policies and execute processes faster and more accurately. As information expands, it must scale to meet new needs. It must be agile enough to respond to ever-changing business and information needs. Different sourcing models should be investigated to achieve the optimal total cost of ownership for the organization. Remember that if some technologies are selected incorrectly, they can doom the implementation of any intelligent information management strategy altogether.
Today, IT manages business value, which is designed, built, and delivered in the form of technology-enabled services. This increases the importance of an information management strategy since data will be consumed in a variety of new and different ways. The once-tight coupling between applications and data is being broken, and centralized "ownership" of data becomes more difficult. This makes the consistency and quality of the data even more critical, putting more pressure on one’s information management strategy to also include data quality and stewardship programs to help achieve a single version of the truth.
Don’t forget to prove the business value.
Finally, maintain momentum and executive support by showing and communicating ongoing demonstrable business value. It is critical to measure and prove the team’s accomplishments in financial and business terms. Examples of financial and business metrics include: quantifiable impact on revenue, increased customer retention, reduced service calls, and decreased inventory levels.
About John Mancini
John Mancini is the President of Content Results, LLC and the Past President of AIIM. He is a well-known author, speaker, and advisor on information management, digital transformation and intelligent automation. John is a frequent keynote speaker and author of more than 30 eBooks on a variety of topics. He can be found on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook as jmancini77. Recent keynote topics include: The Stairway to Digital Transformation Navigating Disruptive Waters — 4 Things You Need to Know to Build Your Digital Transformation Strategy Getting Ahead of the Digital Transformation Curve Viewing Information Management Through a New Lens Digital Disruption: 6 Strategies to Avoid Being “Blockbustered” Specialties: Keynote speaker and writer on AI, RPA, intelligent Information Management, Intelligent Automation and Digital Transformation. Consensus-building with Boards to create strategic focus, action, and accountability. Extensive public speaking and public relations work Conversant and experienced in major technology issues and trends. Expert on inbound and content marketing, particularly in an association environment and on the Hubspot platform. John is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the College of William and Mary, and holds an M.A. in Public Policy from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University.