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What is Information Management?

Updated: Sep 12

Every organization, product, customer, and executive is now on a digital journey. Effective customer engagement, business operations, and compliance all rely on one thing: effective information management. The more information you have about your customers, the more effective you will be at providing valuable products or services to your customers. The better you manage operational information, the more effective and efficient is your operation and your ability to meet regulatory compliance requirements.


“Computing hardware used to be a capital asset, while data wasn’t thought of as an asset in the same way. Now, hardware is becoming a service people buy in real time, and the lasting asset is the data.”– Erik Brynjolfsson, Director, MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy


Organizations can use information to add value, minimize risks, reduce costs, and allow the business to identify new opportunities. Information is therefore the new oil (or air) that fuels your digital transformation. But for this to happen, you have to enable it.

The first step to achieving this is to improve information availability, completeness, and trustworthiness. This will improve customer engagement, business operations, and compliance. It also makes it possible to better connect people, information, and knowledge. Once products and devices are connected in the future, relevant information can then find users based on their behaviour and location, e.g. operating manuals for a specific crane find the crane operators when at the crane.


Information is structured data or unstructured content that has meaning to people or machines. Some of the information may be structured data like customer names, addresses, orders, payments, etc, while a lot of it is unstructured or semi-structured like documents, drawings, videos, email, chats, social media messages, etc. The unstructured content often provides context for the structured data, - it provides meaning and insight from the past and present. You therefore need to manage both data and content to provide value for the future.


What is Information Management: Information management concerns a cycle of organizational activity: the acquisition of information from one or more sources, the custodianship and the distribution of that information to those who need it, and its ultimate disposition through archiving or deletion.


Some organizations use the term Information Governance to describe the frameworks they have put in place to manage information. The analyst Gartner defines information governance as the specification of decision rights and an accountability framework to ensure appropriate behavior in the valuation, creation, storage, use, archiving and deletion of information. It includes the processes, roles and policies, standards and metrics that ensure the effective and efficient use of information in enabling an organization to achieve its goals. Software is therefore not a silver bullet for information governance.


“Software is not a silver bullet for information governance. Look beyond vendor hype – information governance is not something to go buy so you can say your company has it. Look at information governance as an evergreen corporate objective, enabled by programs, policies, people- and yes, a range of technologies.” - Cheryl McKinnon, Principal Analyst, Forrester


Effective information governance depends on:

  • Setting policies and standards

  • Assigning responsibilities and authorities

  • Establishing and promulgating procedures and guidelines

  • Providing a range of services relating to the management and use of information

  • Designing, implementing and administering systems for managing information

  • Integrating information management into business systems and processes

  • Monitoring and addressing non-compliance

  • Continuous improvements

Good information governance depends on good data governance. Accurate and trustworthy data is key to any organization, but also to ensure access and control of unstructured content such as reports, plans, budgets, etc. With poor data governance we end up with poor information governance.


Why Information Management?


Strategic benefits


As I mentioned earlier, effective customer engagement, business operations, and compliance all rely on one thing: effective information management. Strategic benefits to consider:

  • Establish a foundation for digital transformation - using master data as metadata for unstructured information enables you to connect information across your organization. It will then be easier to start business transformation initiatives.

  • Add value - better connecting people, information, and knowledge will improve customer engagement and create a more effective workforce. For many enterprises, this can result in increased sales. McKinsey claims that 35% of Amazon´s revenue comes from recommendations.

  • Identify new opportunities - historic information may be used to predict - and change - the future. This could be estimating when a customer may decide to cancel their subscription, when crime will happen, when a student may decide to drop out of college, etc.

  • Minimize risks - it could take 10 years to establish your company as a solid brand, but only 10 minutes to destroy it if sensitive information is lost or misplaced.

  • Reduce costs - better information management will help to improve and automate information intensive processes. It reduces the process and transactional costs, e.g. cost to process a claim, service a customer.

Operational benefits


Improving information availability, trustworthiness, and completeness will improve workforce effectiveness. It is also creates opportunities for reducing operational costs by replacing and sunsetting legacy content management systems. Benefits to consider:

  • Improve search - better access to information will reduce the time knowledge workers have to spend looking for information.

  • Improve knowledge sharing - better control of your sensitive information means you can open up access to non-sensitive information.

  • Single source of the truth - better information governance means knowledge workers can trust the information they find. They know it is the right file, right version, etc.

  • Improve business continuity - better information governance means that information assets are locked and protected. You are only able to recover deleted or old versions for 90 days with the Microsoft E3 license (365 days with the E5 license), and you avoid this being an issue with record management in Office 365.

  • Improve information security - knowledge workers collaborate with people both inside and outside your organization. better information governance means that sensitive information is protected wherever it may go (e.g. automatic encryption), or you can stop if from leaving your organization.

  • Reduce operational costs – New cloud solutions are often way cheaper than on-premise silos. It is therefore an opportunity to reduce both operational costs and risks.

Legal benefits


Information governance will ensure compliance with legal regulatory requirements for record keeping, but also privacy requirements for security by design, data minimization, and storage limitation. Benefits to consider:

  • Ensure regulatory compliance - there are a myriad of regulations that require an organization to keep information for a minimum set of years, but privacy regulations that require some information to be deleted when customers or staff leaves to meet principles of data minimization and storage limitation. Storing information forever in Office 365 is therefore not compliant with GDPR and similar privacy regulations. Better information governance will ensure you meet legal reguirements for both minimuim and maximum retention.

  • Reduce eDiscovery costs - research by CGOC some years ago found that 68% of information kept by organizations is ROT - redundant, outdated, and trivial. Better information governance allows you to automate the deletion of ROT, which will significantly reduce your eDiscovery costs.


Calculating the financial value of information management


It is often possible to calculate a the financial value of information. Doug Laney, while at Gartner, introduced the term Infonomcis to describe the idea that information is an enterprise asset and should be counted and managed as such. His framework for identifying the value of information has two dimensions.


1) Foundational measures

  • Intrinsic value of information – how correct, complete, and exclusive is the data?

  • Business value of information – how good and relevant is this data for specific purpose

  • Performance value of information – how does this data affect key business drivers?

2) Financial measures

  • Cost value of information – what would it cost us if we lost this data?

  • Market value of information – what good could we get from selling or trading this data?

  • Economic value of information – how does this data contribute to our bottom line?


How to improve your Information Management?


Below are some steps you should take to improve your information management, but also examples of organizations that leverage information as an asset.


Get the Foundation Right


Geoffrey Moore, bestselling author of Crossing the Chasm and Zone2Win claims that organizations have to work your way up the following steps:

  • Reframing your infrastructure model by leveraging cloud, mobile, social, and AI

  • Reframing your operating model to improve customer intimacy and operational efficiency

  • Reframing your business model to get net-new revenue

The consulting company McKinsey recommends organizations establish a secure and compliant platform as the foundation for digital transformation. Information can then be easily turned into an asset to add value, reduce costs, minimize risks, and identify new opportunities.

This can be Azure for your data, and Office 365 for your content. The Office 365 compliance features allow for compliance-by-design and protection of content in and outside Office 365. The master data should be the metadata to manage the content, which then helps you connect both structured data and unstructured content to provide value.


Replace Information Silos with Platforms


Enterprises need to free their company´s future from the pull of the past. Technical debt needs to be reduced or eliminated, and information locked down in legacy silos needs to be migrated and managed in a future-proof platform reducing or eliminating the need for future migrations. This will not only reduce your operational risks and costs, but it is a necessity for meeting GDPR and other data privacy requirements for data minimization and storage limitation.

Data mapping is a key activity while determining information architecture, information flow, and manage data privacy / regulatory risks. Once you know the risks associated with information, a data map can be an effective tool in prioritizing the transition of information to a compliant destination or making disposition decisions.

Development of a data map without specialist expertise and automation tooling can be a time consuming and difficult task to complete. Consider the following technology options when developing your data mapping and information transition strategy.


Embrace Mobile and Internet of Things


Companies building the most effective buyer journeys master four interconnected capabilities according to McKinsey:

  • automation,

  • proactive personalization,

  • contextual interaction, and

  • journey innovation.

Use Mobile and Internet of Things to connect products and components and get information that will help to monitor usage, optimize availability, reduce risks, etc.


Royal Caribbean Cruise Line use a mobile app to better engage cruise guests and sell services. Their goal is that customers should get from car to bar in 15 minutes. The guest app includes features such as accelerated check-in, the daily planner, onboard accounts, as well as the ability to book various items such as shore excursions, specialty restaurants and other onboard activities. Royal Caribbean Cruise Line is also planning to use mobile facial recognition technology in port to allow guests to skip check-in lines, and allow guests to use their smartphone to help to navigate around a ship's many pathways, unlock cabin doors automatically for the cabin's occupant, track luggage from the time it arrives at the pier until it is delivered to the rooms, leverage AI to as a digital assistant, and get drinks delivered to them wherever they are on the ship. 


Levi´s Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers, features nearly 17,000 Bluetooth beacons to better engage visitors. The beacons help visitors use the Levi’s Stadium app to find their seats, the nearest restrooms, and concessions. Food and drinks can be delivered right to their seats. In the first season, 30 percentage of visitors downloaded the app generating $2 million in revenue from food, beverage, merchandize, parking, and in-app sponsorship.


Leverage AI and Analytics


Personalize, predict, and change customer behaviour based on historic and real-time information


UPS optimizes a driver’s route using advanced mathematical models, data from planning systems, and customized map data that account for customer needs, service commitments, and business rules (e.g. prioritize routes in the US that allow the driver to go right on red when there are traffic lights). It also allows “what if” analysis and decision making based on changes. Big savings come from the attention to detail since 1 mile is worth $50M, 1 minute is worth $14.6M, and 1 minute of idle time is worth $515K for UPS.

Santa Cruz Police Department uses historic information to forecast when and where a crime is most likely to take place - and how officers could be deployed preemptively to stop the crime. This helps the police department serve more citizens with less staff since they receive 30 percent more calls for service but with 20 percent less staff than in the year 2000.

University of Kentucky is using historic information about students that dropped out to identify existing students that may decide to drop out, and then engage with them before they decide to drop out. They have also gamified it by showing students their K-score in the mobile app with recommendations for how to improve their score.


Create a Palette of Tools


You don´t have the resources to make all the changes. Create instead a palette of tools that are unlimited. Offer training courses, e.g. digital workflows. Empower staff to become change agents, e.g. automate the manual processes they hate the most


The University of Alabama at Birmingham has unlimited DocuSign licenses and realized that central control is not going to work. IT staff will never get around to changing all of the paper based processes that the university has created in 50 years. Instead staff are invited to training and empowered to find the paper based process they hate the most and transform them. This gets hundreds of people involved with the transformation effort. Staff become agents of innovation.


Keep It Simple and Smart


You need to understand expectations since the user experience trumps efficiency. Ray Wang at Constellation Research claims solutions therefore have to be:

  • Safe

  • Secure

  • Scalable

  • Sustainable

  • Sexy

“A lot of commercial software is developed for the buyer, not the user” – Paul Gaffney, CTO, Kohl´s and Digital Value Institute CXO Advisory Council member


Establish a Governance Framework


Information Governance seeks to meet the needs of the total organization (line of business, IT, and Compliance) with optimized information management practices. Curtis Carver, the VP & CIO at University of Alabama at Birmingham shared the following metaphor for why this is important:


“I am a fan of the data lake metaphor where the fish is data and the report writers are fishermen and women. Now some of the fish in this data lake live in a secure, highly regulated reserve where all the fish are validated as to be safe to consume and we know a lot about these fish. In fact, we have dictionaries about these fish and tools to validate the truth about these fish (data validation and data dictionaries). There are some fish nearby that are interesting and we know something about them. They are probably safe to consume but they are not as regulated. You might say they are of interest to be moved into the secure regulated space. And then we have a lot of fish that we don’t regulate and may kill you but you can fish them at your own risk. You can add fish to the lake if you want but not directly to the secure reserve. By the way, it is way too expensive to put all the fish in the reserve. So we need at least the three previously mentioned areas of the lake.


As for the fisher women and men, we recommend some fishing poles (reporting tools) but it really isn’t our place to make you use just one. Fisher women and men are known for their independent streak and peculiar discipline specific fishing habits so while we centralize some of them to work with the reserve, we allow decentralized organizations to hire other fishermen/women to address their unique taste in fish. We don’t allow everyone to have a personal lake but everyone can have a home on the lake and fish. Occasionally the fisher men and women get together and have social gatherings and inevitably the topic turns to fish after they have discussed the weather, fishing rods, and boats in that order. As they discuss fish, they build some rules so they can all enjoy the lake and its fish. This is kind of important so we don’t have fishing by dynamite, fish wars, or red tide (fish integrity issues). We also want to protect the fish so that only registered fishers can access the fish and only the right folks can change fish in the lake. The good news is we can expand the lake if needed to accommodate new fishers as needed so there is no need for a separate lake. One of the exciting developments for youngsters is new virtual lakes that can seamlessly merge with your on premise physical lake. Folks seem to enjoy this lake expansion technique but it can get unruly and brawls break out if you are not careful. Trust me, you don’t want to be involved in fishers’ brawls as you could lose your job!”


Next steps?


Please contact us if you need help establishing an information management strategy and framework.


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