A SIM-ple way to make information matter

The traditional approach to information management is driven primarily by regulation. While this defensive approach is necessary, understandable and mandated by law, it never leads to competitive advantage. The upshot is increased data storage and integration costs and, at the same time, enterprises starved of the right information needed effectively to run the business.

There is a better way. It’s called strategic information management (SIM), a method of sorting information that treats the important data one way and the junk data another. To make SIM work, all CIOs need to do is focus on the information that makes their enterprise competitive – the information that matters. If this also keeps the lawyers happy, then all the better.

The value of information (which can be organized into four categories: nuisance, compliance, operational and growth) essentially determines where to focus information management activities. Each of these four value categories requires a different management approach: • Nuisance – delete and mitigate • Compliance – automate and cost-manage • Operational – systematize and optimize • Growth – experiment and invest

Strategic CIOs must recognize which information is most critical to gather, analyze and deliver to key stakeholders. First, map your information investments and activities to the nuisance, compliance, operational and growth categories to see alignment. Adjust your investments accordingly.

Nuisance information is of little or no value to the enterprise and leads to excess storage costs, complexity, and drag on the organization as a whole. Create appropriate policies and procedures to delete or mitigate nuisance data.

While information risk management is critical to enterprises, storage of data over and above regulatory requirements can lead to an excess of nuisance information. Creating even greater security parameters to protect information can lead to daily access challenges and limit opportunities to leverage information synergies.

Key business questions

A key to strategic information management is to focus on information that answers key business questions.

Just as all enterprise information is not equal in importance, all business requests (or questions) do not deserve equal resources to explore. The following is a two-tier model generally used by CIOs to help prioritize business questions:

Tier 1: Questions posed by C-level business peers – the CEO, CFO, CMO and COO – are generally given top priority and receive IT resources first.

Tier 2: Questions posed by all other enterprise stakeholders generally become part of the project prioritization process or capital investment process for ranking and resource allocation.

The two-tier process effectively balances the need for responsiveness to senior executive requests with vetting information requests for relevance against enterprise priorities.

Once you and your senior business peers have identified the priority questions for your enterprise, you can use an experimentation process to find the answers. The approach draws on statistical sampling to obtain small amounts of information to quickly answer key questions and respond to changing information needs without over-investing.

Also important to highlight, SIM is not predicated by perfect or completely integrated IT systems. Business questions can be answered so long as the sample data are reliable. So, in a nutshell, what should be done about the information mountain that’s pushing its way up in most enterprises?

• Review information-related IT investments by category to ensure that you are investing in high-value information categories.

• Engage your business peers to identify and understand the SIM questions most relevant to your enterprise.

• Conduct experiments to find the answers.

In effect, you can begin delivering more performance from your enterprise information right away and maximize the “I” in CIO for the benefit of your business.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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