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In the nine years since our article 10 principles of effective information management was written, the challenges of managing information in organisations haven’t become any simpler.
If anything, the information management situation has become more complex. Organisations generate even more content and information, from a wide range of systems, sources and platforms.
Business areas, and even individual staff, are now using a wide range of consumer-focused solutions to manage their information, often bypassing corporate systems.
The need for accurate and timely information has become paramount, with the ‘speed of business’ increasing. This must be balanced with an increasingly onerous regulatory burden, designed to mitigate risk and ensure compliance with industry-wide policies.
Against the backdrop of this daunting list of challenges, teams given the responsibility to address information management needs must determine where to start, and how to progress.
The starting point is often to write an information management strategy, and this paper will explore several approaches to doing this.
Start with the business imperative
Every information management strategy must start by outlining the current challenges, and the desired future state.
This should be done in the context of the organisation’s specific priorities, and not in vague terms.
For example, “Information is duplicated, leading to confusion over the correct version” is unlikely to fire up senior leader passions, unless the organisation is in the business of selling the information.
On the other hand, “Staff in call centres find it hard to provide accurate and timely product information to customers” is something that every bank or similar institution should care about.
To determine the right context, spend time with senior leaders and key product owners to identify the right issues and needs to focus on. Get these validated before proceeding further.
Strategy as policies
There is a temptation for information management strategies to become drivers for creating a large number of new policies.
For example, common policies include:
- “Corporate data will be managed throughout the data’s lifecycle.”
- “Key business systems will be designed to enable integration and exchange of information.”
- “A single source of truth will be identified for each information resource.”
- “The risks relating to information resources will be identified, with appropriate levels of management applied.”
These are all valid policies, and many others besides. The challenge is that simply writing them doesn’t automatically lead to any changes in the real-world business environment.
It can also trap teams in high-level discussions and endless stakeholder engagement, while the real challenges and needs remain unaddressed.
Strategy as a list of projects
Experience has shown that a more effective approach is to think of an information management strategy in terms of a series of projects.
Each of these projects is chosen carefully to have the greatest impact on information management challenges. The projects are also prioritised according to business need, strategic significance, and practical feasibility.
In a corporate context, this may involve starting with key frontline or field needs, supporting the staff who interact with customers. In a a university, course information may be paramount. In a pharmaceutical firm, sharing of knowledge between different research teams may be critical.
This reshapes the discussions around information management, shifting them away from policies and governance, and towards project planning, ‘what are we doing first?’
Each project, within the context of the overall goals, delivers a concrete solution. It also positions the team to then tackle the next biggest problems, and onwards from there.