An explosion of information has opened the door for businesses of all shapes and sizes to drive success in a number of new ways. If you want to improve productivity, make better, data-based decisions and simplify compliance, information holds the key.
And yet the door is more of a revolving affair. There is an opportunity to make the most of information, but with the entrance doors spinning furiously, those who aren't prepared are likely to get quickly stuck on their way through.
It's up to all decision makers to ask themselves tough questions about information management before attempting to get value from their data. Here are five of the most difficult and most pressing for any director, executive or shareholder to answer:
As one of only four available assets, organisations can't go for too much longer without taking a hard look at how they manage their information.
1) What is the cost, value and benefit for managing your information?
Think of your information as a physical asset – let's say a truck. Before your organisation buys or leases one, you'll want to know its cost, its value over its operating life span and afterwards, and the benefits to your company of acquiring it.
When we look at information, organisations should similarly consider what it costs to manage it, what is the value of doing that and how do you go about putting a number on it, and the benefits to your organisation by improving the management of information.
Most people don't know the answers, which is where an information management health check comes in.
2) What is the role of management – to report on business performance or to effectively deploy the organisation's scarce and valuable assets?
If you're an economist, the answer is to deploy the organisation's resources, because that's how an organisation operates. You may not get the same answer from the accountants of an organisation, because none of that stuff is important to them – they want to measure how well that's been done.
However, if you organise the resources of an organisation appropriately, you'll get performance as a by-product, and Information Assets are no different.
3) If you're not managing your information as you would your other vital assets, are you making a conscious decision to manage your organisation sub-optimally?
We say this because there are only four assets available to a business – physical, financial, human and information. If you were to mismanage your financial assets, for example, it is safe to say you are running your organisation at a sub-optimal level, and that has been a conscious decision.
We shouldn't think of Information Assets any differently.
4) If you were made responsible and genuinely accountable for the accuracy, relevance and timeliness of your organisation's information provision, what would you demand?
Put yourself in the shoes of a chief executive who you have made truly accountable for managing your organisation's information.
If we were your director, and we said you'll have KPIs around accuracy, timeliness and relevance of information, a double-digit bonus if you succeed, and you'll be sacked if you don't, what would you demand from us to help you do your job?
5) If you managed your money the same way as you manage your information, what would your organisation look like?
As one of only four available assets, organisations can't go too much longer without taking a hard look at how they manage their information. A simple way to gauge your current progress with information management is to think how your organisation would look if you had no CFO, no financial chart of accounts or general ledger, not a single balance sheet or an income statement, and not a jot of authority over who manage the finances.
If you organise the resources of an organisation appropriately, you'll get performance as a by-product, and Information Assets are no different.
We'd be broke, we're not sure about you.
With the scale of information growth, the uptake of organisations getting value from data, and analytics and automation becoming real disruptors, it won't be long before information and money management are even more comparable. In the very near future, it will be those who mismanage information who fall into financial bankruptcy.
To manage assets, whether they be financial or information, effectively, management needs a framework, they need management tools, they need to delegate authority and they need true accountability – someone with whom the buck really stops.
To achieve this, look at a CIO as you would a CFO. A Chief Information Officer will need a business classification scheme, some tools to clean up the organisation's data and enable software to work efficiently with the same level of delegated authority as a CFO.
So ask yourself another tough question: what are the frameworks, tools, delegation and accountability that are in place to effectively manage your organisation's information? If you're unsure, we'd recommend taking a look at our free white paper to truly understand how you can treat your information as the vital asset it deserves to be.