Effective Information Management: 10 Principles

Continuous Improvement

10 Principles of effective information management by James Robertson (Step Two Designs) inspired me to write this article.

Information Management

IM is not a technology problem. Technology plays an important role. However, to manage your information effectively you need to pay careful attention to the business processes and people that generate and consume it. You also need to consider the data about your data (metadata).

In short, information management covers:

  • People
  • Process
  • Content
  • Technology

You need to address all four areas if you want your IM projects to succeed.

Challenges

The volume of electronic information created is accelerating. This in turn increases all the problems associated with storing, finding, and using it again.

Common Information Management problems include:

  • There are a large number of, often conflicting, business needs.
  • Adoption of existing systems is low or patchy.
  • Information Management has low business priority, or little visibility.
  • The data quality is poor. Data is duplicated, out-of-date, and inconsistent.
  • Many separate information systems with little or no integration.
  • There is little or no cooperation between owners of information systems
  • Many legacy systems need upgrading or replacing.
  • There is no strategic framework for the technology.
  • There is no clear strategic direction for the business.
  • There are limited resources available to address the problems.

This list of issues and limitations is daunting. There are however, information management principles that will help you implement IM projects effectively and successfully.

Ten Principles of Effective Information Management

1. Recognise (and manage) complexity

There are no simple answers. The complexity is difficult to avoid. There are no ‘silver bullet’ solutions. It requires strong leadership to set a clear direction, and many incremental improvements.

2. Focus on adoption

Systems without users are useless. Carefully structure your projects to focus on user adoption from the onset. Ensure there are enough people using the systems to make them valuable.

3. Deliver tangible & visible benefits

Creating a common data definition or taxonomy is great for efficient information management. However, very few users will ever notice these improvements. On the other hand, providing timely, reliable, and accurate operational management information will. Wrap back-end improvements into these.

4. Prioritise according to business needs

Base the planning process on ability to address business needs. Keep the overall technology strategy in mind, but focus on providing measureable business benefits.

5. Take a journey of a thousand steps

Let go of the desire to create a perfect plan. The problem is too complex. ‘Analysis paralyses’ waits if you search for the perfect solution. Big improvements are achievable by implementing hundred, or even thousands, of small co-ordinated changes across the company.

6. Provide strong leadership

Decide how the business will operate, including the information needed. Develop this vision and communicate it clearly.

7. Mitigate risks

Apply good risk management to ensure success. Identify risks and define the approach to minimise their potential impact.

8. Communicate extensively

Make sure everyone knows the business direction and desired outcomes. Remind them often. This way each business unit can make the best decisions to support the goal.

9. Aim to deliver a seamless user experience

Users do not care about which system data came from. A seamless user experience hides the systems information is coming from. You do not need one large system, but aim for the users accessing whatever they need from one place.

10. Choose the first project very carefully

The first project is the best (and possibly last) opportunity to prove the value of information management. Select a manageable project, with visible benefits; in an area of the business, everyone has an interest.

Conclusion

Implementing information management projects are never easy. Business environments are complex and the perfect solution elusive. The 10 Principles of Information Management provides a pragmatic approach to tackling your IM needs.

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