Information Management Strategy Reality Check

On Tuesday I attended EMC Inform 2008, my first event as a representative of IPP Consulting. I had been warned that the agenda was a little light on the business end of enterprise content management, however with the opportunity to hear a key note from EMC‘s social software evangelist, Chuck Hollis, I thought it worth the effort.

I ended up attending just two of the business stream sessions. One of those sessions was on Building an Information Management Strategy, which was a little surprising in a way because of its emphasis on building that strategy using Microsoft Office and SharePoint, rather than Documentum. The Microsoft representative positioned the Microsoft story in the context of EMC by explaining that the original success of Microsoft Office was not because it was the best tool in the market, but because it packaged up a range of related but different functionality into common user interface. The argument continues that Microsoft SharePoint extends that familiar packaging, which makes it easier to introduce to users. And now SharePoint and Office can provide a user-friendly common interface into many other applications, including Documentum.

One of the take away later in the presentation was some guidance on how to implement an information management strategy. Taken from my notes, these are the 10 tips or steps they suggested:

  1. You need a vision and roadmap, based on achieving identified business outcomes (classically they are to increase profit, decrease costs or reduce risk). Remember, it shouldn’t be about the technology.
  2. You need one information management strategy, but will have many projects.
  3. You need a scalable infrastructure – growing too big, too fast is often a reason for failure.
  4. Build the solution to support specific business processes or needs.
  5. Use an iterative enhancement strategy.
  6. Don’t forget about information management lifecycle needs (in this context they mean records management etc, not data storage although of course the better you manage information the faster this becomes an issue).
  7. You need a governance board and policies.
  8. Measure success.
  9. Make user adoption and communication a priority.
  10. Connect and support users.

I would also add another to this list – and this was mentioned later in the presentation – and that is, you need a methodology to guide the implementation (and if you don’t have a methodology, then find a vendor or service provider who does).

Overall this isn’t a bad list, although I still think there are couple of issues missing – for example, enterprise search. The point about methodology is important too, but also it needs to be the right methodology. However, if we think about the reality of implementing information management in practice, let me put this question to you:

  • What happens if your information management strategy has really been based on a particular technology but doesn’t actually meet business requirements?
  • How do you (and should you) create an information management strategy that isn’t based on the technology?

Let me know what you think.

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3 thoughts on “Information Management Strategy Reality Check

  1. Need to include a way to build out an infrastructure that includes internal and external. Need a way to tap into the cloud and experiment with stuff before I commit to buying it and bringing it in house. I may actually start to do all my work outside of my internal infrastructure because I find that I get better performance outside the firewall. There is a business model there for someone who is ready to capitalize on it. The scaleability issue is the big one. You think you have something, you test it in a lab, you have your performance engineers check it out and you think you have it and then you bring it up live on your internal infrastructure and it acts like a dog. Very frustrating and something we have to solve or more and more people will be dissatisfied and move on instead of leveraging our internal investments.

  2. OK, I’ll try and answer your questions. Here goes!1. What happens is that employees start complaining about the technology. (They don’t step back to look at working methods, organization or strategy.) Over time it looks like the technology is the problem – and it could be. Then IT starts tweaking the technology to ‘solve’ the problems (address the complaints). But the complaints keep coming. By the way, business requirements are important, but I find ‘connecting to people and the way they work’ just as important. This does not imply you can’t use out-of-the-box functionality.2. I would say: really understand the information (management) trends in- and outside the organization. Really understand how employees do their work and why they work in a certain way. And translate that to how information flows (or should flow) through the company and support that with working methods and tools. Keep on monitoring if you’re still on track, if not go back to your employees. A good starting point is the employees that are not complying with standard working methods and tools. Don’t forbid them to, but learn from them.

  3. You asked the following in your post:However, if we think about the reality of implementing information management in practice, let me put this question to you:What happens if your information management strategy has really been based on a particular technology but doesn’t actually meet business requirements? How do you (and should you) create an information management strategy that isn’t based on the technology? Let me know what you think.I agree the list is a good starting point if you have nothing to begin with, but the most critical aspects of deploying a system of any kind to manage your information assets is first performing a complete inventory of the assets so you know the universe of WHAT you need to manage, and to perform a complete needs analysis of the user population to determine what the goal is before developing a ‘strategy’. If you don’t bother doing this, you’re in the old “Alice in Wonderland” conundrum of trying to chose a path without knowing where you want to go… it doesn’t matter HOW you proceed if you don’t have a destination.NO STRATEGY should be based on a technology. That’s throwing a ‘solution’ at a problem that hasn’t been analyzed. For years I had clients tell me “We need to install XYZ to start managing our information” and I’d tell them if you have already decided what you need, then why do you need a Consultant? =) The goal is to determine what you want to achieve, then review available products to determine if any of them have the native capabilities of solving your problems. If not, do they have trusted partners who offer components or modules that can be seamlessly integrated to achieve the goals… and if not, then keep looking.Take the time to understand your existing system and where you have gaps in capabilities you’re attempting to address unsuccessfully. If you can’t repair the system sufficiently to achieve this, then look to changing business practices (or processes) through re-engineering to meet your requirements. If you can’t meet your goals this way, THEN look to a technological alternative to assist you in achieving your business objectives, but DON’T start with a product and then work backwards… it’s a prescription for failure.Larry MedinaRIM Professional since 1972Danville, CA

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