For years, at an increasing pace, a wide variety of articles and advisories have been written to call out and elucidate the growing importance of information and data for almost every aspect of enterprise activities and strategies. Every technology-focused analyst firm has constructed extensive approaches to optimal information management for any and every corporate need. And yet, many organizations still get an “F” when it comes to the strategic inclusion of information and data management in overall corporate strategies that then map into data strategies for different functional levels. The “F” can stand for Failure – it also stands for Fool.
The notion of “information as an asset” has been around way too long for so many organizations to continue in their “fool’s paradise” of poor information management. I would love to see the fallout if corporate executives treated financial assets as poorly as they do their information and data assets. And yet so many organizations fail to grasp the analogy.
In Information Management for the 21st Century, Gartner states that:
…through 2015, organizations integrating high-value, diverse, new information types and sources into a coherent information management infrastructure will outperform their industry peers financially by more than 20%. Further, the gap between organizations which are leaders in information management practices and those which are not will widen rapidly. Those failing to adopt these new principles will continue to fall behind.
Information management is becoming more complex partly due to new data sources and technologies that are changing how businesses are using information assets. Shareability and reuse of data by different business processes and applications are on the rise. Most corporate data assets have to be available on different platforms, different devices and different channels. And more of the data needs to be available in real-time – continuously. Enterprise data strategies need to reflect a synergy where high-quality, integrated data brings far more value to the enterprise as a whole than would be derived in individual departments or silos. Data strategies should reflect how data is used by the enterprise, to be able to connect to business outcomes and success metrics.
New information management challenges to meet new business imperatives means that information has to be part of corporate strategies for those imperatives. Determining how data and information management are handled requires a corporate vision that goes beyond the technologies. This means that all upper management roles now have to collaborate on what is required for strategic information management. Information technology cannot be a business enabler if the dots are not clearly connected from top to bottom.
Comprehensive corporate data strategies should include an over-arching strategy that reflects the goals and objectives of the enterprise. Such an over-arching strategy will have to be revisited as often as company plans and the business environment change – to be sure that data functions are aligned to business needs. There should also be data sub-strategies for individual applications and usage of data by separate departments. But today, more and more of these individual applications (customer, sales, supply chain, finance, operations, risk management…) overlap and interoperate with one another, which provide even stronger impetus for comprehensive enterprise data strategies that connect directly into corporate goals.
Corporate leadership must recognize that high level strategy is incomplete and may not result in success if it does not make information management and technologies important players in strategy creation. The constant interplay of strategy, business objectives and information management ensures that all organizational elements are working towards the same goals, and measuring outcomes with integrated metrics.