Effective information management: Using data as a competitive weapon

In today's global economy, information is becoming a major competitive asset, a weapon to drive business advantage.

In today's global economy, information is becoming a major competitive asset.

It is a weapon to drive business advantage, and information management (IM) is a very important competency that businesses need to care about.

While organisations increasingly execute on master data management (MDM) initiatives, organisations need to deal with and different types of competency in the new era of digitalisation, which brings new types of data..

The data — which can include orders, invoices, documents, emails, and financial entries in the general ledger — surrounds, and is linked to, the master data at the centre.

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While master and transactional data is generally produced by, and managed within, systems inside the business, organisations increasingly care about data that is created and managed outside as well. For example, social media data from sources such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., or data that is being provided to the organisation by trading partners — suppliers, customers or industry organisations.

Data that comes from outside the business is interesting, because it enriches what is held internally and gives a broader perspective on what is happening across industries and beyond. In order to manage this expanding universe of data, organisations will need to broaden their competency toward enterprise information management (EIM).

Today, the business is using information in all these forms to better connect with external constituents; in effect, information becomes the critical connection that links together the value chain of organisations. In the commercial/private sector this means a more seamless, smooth and efficient supply chain — from raw materials through to delivery of the finished product to end customers. In the public/government sector this implies more transparency and better service levels for citizens or service recipients.

 Too few organisations measure and achieve a rate of return on their information investments.

However, too few organisations measure and achieve a rate of return on their information investments. EIM is focused on a shift toward making conscious changes to investments in IM, in order to improve specific business outcomes that lead to a business or organisational advantage while also including cost-based and/or compliance-based information requirements. Thinking of IM as "storage" or "maintenance" or "hosting" of information is no longer sufficient. Such mindsets miss the whole point of how information can be used to innovate, to compete or to grow the business — all business outcomes that CEOs and business leaders in general are seeking.

To succeed with EIM initiatives, organisations need to finally make information governance work. By developing strong competencies in information governance, organisations can mitigate the risks inherent in poorly managed information and enable the various benefits that EIM promises — such as increased efficiency and value-creation opportunities.

Information governance is transformational, because it requires a significant shift in the culture of the organisation as it relates to information; also, it puts in place the necessary controls and incentives to ensure appropriate behaviour of people and systems relative to quality, archival and retention, security, privacy and standards for information. Information governance creates the accountability that ensures there is an impact from EIM.

Ted Friedman is a distinguished analyst at Gartner and will be speaking at the Gartner Enterprise Information & Master Data Management Summit 2014, which is running 12-13 March in  London.

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