by Ted Lewis
The Information Management Process
Change in this new century has and will continue to be the norm in both the private (business) and public (government) sectors. Changes in information technology are becoming more frequent as the world has become more complex and fluid. More so than ever, information technology is as much an integral part of our lives as the automobile and airplane. Therefore, one of the primary responsibilities for any enterprise is the effective development, management and use of its information and information technology infrastructure.
Yet, the management of information technology will also continue to undergo revolutionary, not evolutionary, change. Future changes to a fundamentally new way of thinking and managing will be driven not only by technology advances, but also by business and social directions, including emphasis on people issues, cost-effectiveness, information dispersal, reporting relationships, and better alignment and effectiveness of business and information technology processes.
To effectively lead in this era of constant change, both business and information technology people need to educate themselves on the strategic implications of information technology to ensure more productive, effective and profitable enterprises through the strategic use of information and information technology.
CHALLENGES FACING THE INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY ORGANIZATION
Past efforts in developing information systems have resulted in the continued use of today’s legacy systems because of the lack of effective IT leadership and management, effective enterprise architecture, coordinated IT plans & policies, and IT standards. As a result, still today many organizations are inundated with data and overwhelmed with paper. These same organizations have insufficient or distorted information, and are overburdened with management hierarchy. Yet, the past decade has seen an explosion of new information technologies in all areas — hardware, software, databases and telecommunications.
This rapid expansion in new information technologies will continue without pause. As a result, the role of information technology is changing. The new information technologies allow organizations to acquire new ideas from anywhere, to reach across markets and compress business response time, and to enable enhanced local presence. Since, all businesses have, in general, access to the same new technologies, organizations now need to emphasize a closer synchronization between the use of information technology and their strategic business policies. To be truly competitive in the marketplace and maintain their competitive posture, organizations not only must understand, but also must use the new information technologies effectively, as well as focusing on the strategic role of information both within the organization and in the external global value chain for the organization.
But, are businesses effectively using these new technologies; are they effectively focusing on the strategic role of information? More importantly, are the IT organizations within these businesses effectively developing, implementing and managing these new information technologies to support the businesses in achieving higher levels of effectiveness, efficiency, productivity and profitability?
As we continue to move into the 21st Century, IT organizations are faced with many critical issues. Overall, the five most important challenges that IT organizations must addressed and resolve include: 1) managing information resources, including information and technologies, strategically, 2) supporting global business requirements, 3) determining an accurate business value of information systems, 4) developing and implementing an enterprise-wide information resources architecture, 5) establishing effective responsibility and control for IT development, implementation and management.
INFORMATION MANAGEMENT PROCESS — THE OVERALL FOCUS FOR IT
How should IT organizations define their future role within organizations? What should their focus be? In most organizations, in the context of business process, the information technology organization is considered to consist of a singular process with various sub-processes and activities included within the overall IT process. IBM called their IT support process, the IT Infrastructure; Xerox — Information Management; and British Telecomm — Manage Information Resource.
These approaches bear thoughtful attention since they place great emphasis on the process of Information Management in order to emphasize and reflect upon the importance of information as a strategic resource within the organization. The Information Management Process will include various sub-processes and activities as required by an individual IT organization. By applying Michael Porter’s Value Chain Concept to the Information Management Process, an organization can develop various strategies to help achieve an information-based environment for the organization. These strategies will focus on: identification of information needs & requirements in the organization, information acquisition & collection, information categorization & storage, information packaging & formatting, information dissemination & distribution, and information analysis & use.
In order to create a process-based IT environment, many steps must be taken in order to effectively align the information resources within the organization to proactively support the business processes and activities. As an organization begins to change its IT organization and activities, the organization should address six essential characteristics that the Information Management Process should have in order to effectively support the business. The Information Management Process must: 1) have strong executive leadership (business and IT); 2) have a formal information management infrastructure, to include a framework, policies, standards, methods and tools; 3) use integrated information resources models in the context of an enterprise-wide architecture; 4) use a dynamic migration plan to achieve the new process environment and the implementation of new information technologies; 5) have a flexible & effective IT organizational structure to accommodate process-driven activities; and 6) use highly-skilled & proficient IT individuals.
SUCCESS FACTORS FOR THE INFORMATION MANAGEMENT PROCESS
To effectively build the Information Management Process with the above stated six essential characteristics, IT organizations must use these five critical success factors as their benchmarks to establish a successful Informaiton Management Process:
- Educate all the organization’s executives, both business and IT, on reengineering.
- Evaluate your IT organizational environment for reengineering.
- Effectively identify and use key process change enablers .
- Effectively use a structured, disciplined reengineering methodology.
- Implement positive and dynamic change management process and procedures.
The new process-based IT environment — the Information Management Process — will be characterized by an active and continuous executive, business and IT, involvement in IT activities; information customers/consumers who will be responsible for the accuracy, consistency and timeliness of data; information vision that provides the focus & direction for architecture models and plans; effective, quality-oriented management of information; and effective resource management within the IT organization.
The implementation of the Information Management Process can be done and done successfully within the IT organization. However, as a “new” pioneering approach with many uncertainties, IT management must have the knowledge to understand, the courage to begin, and the will to succeed at effective process work if they are going to make a “positive and successful difference” in their IT organizations, but more importantly for the business as a whole.