Today’s organizations must manage the explosive growth of all types of information while addressing greater-than-ever business demand for insights into customer needs and the business environment. Meanwhile, the significant regulatory and compliance risk associated with information security has increased the urgency for tightly controlled information management capabilities. These requirements are hard to meet, with scant best practices available to tame the complexity that firms encounter when trying to manage their information architecture. Enterprise architects must define the organizational capabilities they need to develop and evolve their information resources — as well as the technology to exploit them. You can only achieve all this with a coherent information strategy that defines and prioritizes your needs and focuses resources on high-impact goals.
Crafting a detailed information strategy and successfully executing it is a tall order, one that has eluded most organizations. IT has been managing information ever since businesses embraced the use of computers — so why are most organizations so ill-prepared to maximize the potential in their information assets? One word: volume. The sheer magnitude implied by the term “enterprise information” turns organizations away from the Sisyphean task of managing at the enterprisewide level and toward the much more controllable scope of information in silos. However, the siloed view is an operational view, and maximizing information’s potential means looking across silos for relationships, strategic synergies, and insights. Unfortunately, few organizations are mature at harnessing subject matter expertise from the various business and IT areas and engaging in the collaboration necessary to establish the structure in information to make it available for analysis. But time’s up! You need to establish a clear information strategy and formalize your information architecture practice because:
Getting the right information to the right people at the right time.There’s little more frustrating than knowing that somewhere, inaccessible to you, your firm has collected the data that can inform the decision you’re trying to make. Does the loyalty of the customer on the phone warrant waiving your standard policy on returns? Is there a pattern to the process errors you’re experiencing in part of your operation? Is there conflicting information in the forms you’ve collected to comply with regulations before launching an expensive initiative? A well-defined information architecture tells you where that information is, and a well-executed information strategy provides the tools to access it to the staff that needs them, when it needs them.
Establishing and maintaining trustworthy information in a secure manner.Forrester has found that in many cases the catalyzing event that has driven firms to information management maturity was a business disaster that could have been avoided. For example, a pharmaceutical firm looking to market a drug in a new region included incorrect molecule data that delayed the regulatory acceptance of the drug — as well as the revenue from selling it in the new market. The root cause? Conflicting changes to information due to a poor understanding of who had access to what — something that a basic RACI chart (responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed) and standard governance processes would catch. That firm now has mature information management practices, complete with a strategy and a formal information architecture practice. This is not an isolated story — can you afford to wait for a high-profile incident involving inaccurate or insecure information to be the trigger for better management?
Taking advantage of the new business opportunities in new information sources.The unprecedented level of detail coming from newly digitized processes, such as smart grids in the utilities industry or customer location data available from ubiquitous smartphones, has created opportunities in new information sources. The opportunities range from more effective marketing to entirely new business models. Any firm that does not pursue them leaves money on the table and cedes competitive advantage to the firm that does.