Adapted from Information-Driven Business: How to Manage Data and Information for Maximum Advantage, by Robert Hillard. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.. See www.infodrivenbusiness.com.
The concept of information overload is permeating every business that I deal with. At the same time, the global economy is moving from products to services which are described almost entirely electronically. Even those businesses that are traditionally associated with making things are less concerned with the management of the manufacturing process (which is largely outsourced) than they are on the management of their intellectual property.
Increasingly, information doesn’t provide a window on the business. It is the business.
It’s a simple equation. Intellectual property is tied-up in the data on computers. If it is the subject of focused management, then greater value is extracted from that data. If the intellectual property is a significant proportion of the value of the business, then such a focused effort will have a dramatic effect on the value of the business as a whole. Such an effort will also make the organization much more enjoyable to work in with less time lost searching for information that should be readily available and less time sifting through irrelevant data that should never have hit the email inbox.
As business has become more complex, techniques are appearing almost every day which seek to simplify the task of managing a large multifaceted organization. Their quest is similar to a physicist looking for the single unifying equation that will define the universe. Any approach which recommends focusing on one part of the business must use a limited set of measures which aggregate complex data from across the enterprise. In providing a simple answer, detail and differentiation must be lost.
A simple set of metrics by itself is no longer enough to sum up the millions or billions of moving parts that define the enterprise. Perhaps, then, it is time to gain a better understanding of the role of information in business.
While large quantities of information have been with us for as long as humans have gathered in groups, it has taken on a whole new dynamic form. The quantity of data has grown dramatically since the cost of computer storage dropped as it did at the end of the twentieth century. The growth has taken business management by surprise and the techniques that we use have not been able to keep up.
With little differentiation in the bricks and mortar assets, business needs to enhance their service and differentiate using the informational resources at their disposal. The winners tailor their product to the needs of their markets. Successful leaders have a deep insight into the running of their business. Such an insight can only come from accurate information.
In almost every organization, one or more executives have been assigned accountability for Information Governance, quality or records. Similarly, technologists are being asked to make sense of the mountains of data that exist in databases, file systems and other repositories.
Treating information as something that needs to be managed in its own right, allows a profession of Information Managers to develop with a common approach to Information Management. Without common techniques, many organizations have been ad-hoc in their approach. The most successful, though, have borrowed approaches from other disciplines and been part of the evolution of a form of professional consensus.
Techniques finally evolving to measure how useable information is (such as the Small Worlds Information Measure) and how much there is (Information Entropy). Governance of the information economy is, at last, taking on some formality and businesses are at last reaping the benefits. We are in the middle of an information revolution and perhaps we have moved from first principles to a more holistic view of what Information-Driven Business will look like when we come out the other side.