In this age of increasing importance of information it is still managed badly. Most believe that information management is the domain of IT. Our view is that information is an asset that should be managed as such and should therefore be the responsibility of the business. Our position, which is grounded in peer reviewed research, is that:
- Every organisation exists to deliver products and services to its clients. Value is created at multiple levels for multiple stakeholders. Counter-intuitively, the job of management is not to drive profitability and business improvement; those are lag indicators. The job of management is to deploy its organisations’ scarce and valuable resources. The most successful organisations are those that deliver the products and services that create the most value for the customer whilst consuming the least resources.
- Information is one of only four business resources available for organisations to deploy to run their businesses. The other three are financial assets (money), human assets (people) and infrastructure assets (buildings, hardware and software). And those assets are scarce, in that organisations always need more of them. Moreover, information is critical; it is a vital component of every business activity, every business process and every business decision.
- Information is universally deployed and managed badly. If we think about how the other assets are managed, they all have a framework, (e.g. Chart of Accounts), management tools (e.g. Balance Sheet and Income Statement), tightly delegated authority (only very few people have the authority to spend a predetermined amount of money on predetermined items in a predetermined timeframe) and true accountability (a CFO will be sacked if he or she mismanaged an organisation’s money and they will be jailed if they misappropriate it). When asked what his organisation would look like if it’s money was managed the same way its information is, an executive of an oil and gas producer replied, “We would be broke in a week. Any person would be able to spend any quantity of money at any time for any purpose without authority and without having to report on it.” That organisation is not alone.
- Improving information management practices does not require technology. The value of information is contextual. Context requires judgement. And judgement can only be provided by humans. Software alone cannot do the job. For forty years we have been throwing hardware and software at business problems in the forlorn hope that the problems will go away; they won’t. As the Chief Executive Officer of a large American Health Clinic said to us, “Our technology has improved to the point where I can now get crap at the speed of light.” The reasons for information management failure are related to business governance, leadership and management, justification and behaviour.
- Instead of imposing sensible business governance of this critical resource, management has abdicated its responsibility and unfairly allowed the management of information to default to IT who are hopelessly ill-equipped to deal with it. IT is great at the pipes and wires but managing information is neither their forte nor their responsibility. IT does not intimately understand the business nor does it understand the information that is vital to it. Worse, many organisations are actively seeking to outsource their IT by going to The Cloud. Who will be responsible for managing the organisation’s information then?
- One of the many reasons for the poor management of information is that there is no such thing as a CIO. Of the myriad of organisations that we have seen, there is nobody who will be sacked if information is not delivered in an accurate and timely fashion to the people who need it. Another is that whilst the expectations of behaviour around the management of money is clearly articulated, the same is not true for the management of information.
- The benefits to organisations from improving their information management practices are tangible, achievable and significant – at least $20,000 per employee per year.
We need to seriously rethink the management of information as a business asset.