Royce Bell, the CEO of Accenture Information Management Services (AIMS) is a little hesitant to use the analogy, but it works well: “This is a bit like when [enterprise resource planning] ERP exploded with the Y2K problem. It’s synchronistic. Information management is exploding because several things are coming together at once.”
The explosion in ERP implementations in the 1990s not only transformed the software industry, making global giants of SAP and others, but, more importantly, it made big business more efficient, more accountable, and more process oriented.
Now, something very similar – and equally big – is happening in information management. A combination of technical innovations, competitive pressures and legislative requirements is forcing businesses to plan their information management strategies much more strategically and to invest in new platforms to ensure delivery.
Software and services companies can already sense that something very significant is happening in information management. Many of the specialist suppliers are already thriving, but the giants of the IT world are also realigning around the information management theme.
Seven habits of effective Information managers
- 1. Always ask: What is the business payback? What is the business need?
- 2. Have a resilient enterprise information management plan and technical architecture.
- 3. Plan to bring unstructured and structured information together at the point of use – most likely a role based or individualised portal.
- 4. Use enterprise search technology to find information spread around the organisation.
- 5. Integrate information management tools and portals into structured business processes.
- 6. Use open standards such as web services, enableing easier information sharing with partners and across the internet.
- 7. Plan for information volumes, data types and applications to rise steadily and indefinitely.
Source: Information Age
Accenture, with its new AIMS business, is investing $100 million in an attempt to consolidate its position as a leading strategic advisor and consultant; IBM, a partner and rival, has pledged to invest $1 billion in new software and in building up its information management consultancy.
“The value of information can’t be realised if it’s not effectively managed and delivered to the right people, business applications and processes,” says Steve Mills, senior vice president of IBM software.
Other suppliers, such as Oracle, SAP and Microsoft, are all stepping up their presence in this area – and it is not hard to see why: according to various analyst figures, the information management services business is growing at 9% a year and will exceed $27 billion by 2007. And global sales of search, database and collaboration software are expected to reach $69 billion by 2009.
What is behind all this? Bell of Accenture identifies three of the drivers.
First, compliance: A host of laws, such as Sarbanes Oxley in the US, Basel II in the banking sector, the Freedom of Information Act in the UK, and other rules from regulatory bodies in Europe, the US and beyond, are forcing most businesses of any scale to have a comprehensive view of, and control over, their processes and information.
Second, powerful new technologies such as real time analytics, enterprise search, and process aware business intelligence tools are enabling businesses, as Bell puts it, “to interfere and make a difference”. There are many examples where improved customer service, better decision making and new efficiencies have been achieved by bringing the right information to bear on a business process.
Third, executives are becoming aware – and are deeply troubled by – the amount of mission critical information that is now accumulating in unstructured databases, such as desktop Word files, voice and email and instant messaging servers.
This huge, often unmanaged bank of information represents both an opportunity and a liability. New collaborative technologies, such as Wikis, blogs and instant messaging, are often uncontrolled and could cause severe compliance difficulties for some organisations – as could the use of new structured information, such as ‘presence’ and positioning data, and records of database searches and web site visits. But equally, bringing the unstructured and structured information together in one portal can deliver powerful insights.
The strategy question
If there is one thing that all the experts in this area agree on, it is that nothing is going to get any easier for the CIO. Compliance pressures will intensify, the amount and type of data stored will rocket, and the need for new policies governing access rights management will proliferate. That is why a strategic approach is vital.
“Enterprise information management will not be achieved by technology alone,” says David Newman, research vice president at Gartner. “It requires a holistic approach that balances technology choices with equally important organisational, governance, process and architecture dimensions to ensure an enterprise wide impact.”
Bell of Accenture reiterates this: “What we’re saying is, before you launch yourself in, step back, and ask yourself: ‘What problems are you trying to solve? What is your architecture? What are your sources and applications of data? What should be standard practices, and where might we gain some competitive edge?’” says.
This lies at the heart of the new “information management” revolution, says Accenture fellow Tom Davenport (see below). In recent decades, many businesses had split responsibilities into sub-domains, such as knowledge management, records management, BI and web content. But now, it is clear that is should all be managed strategically.
Michael Colao, director of information management at London-headquartered investment banking group Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, takes it further. Even CIOs, he said, need to work at a layer above the technology. “CIOs are there to provide a flow for information”, he says. This is about strategy, an integrated approach, and an understanding of the business – not of the siloed technologies.
Information Management: the expert view
Tom Davenport is the distinguished professor of Information Technology & Management at Babson College, Wellesley, Massachusetts.
We are starting to realise that the people who use information don’t want it in separate places. They need a ‘one-stop shop’ to get the information for their work. So it makes sense for a more integrated approach to information management.
A few years ago, I did some research looking at customer information and knowledge management. It was very rare to find companies who were very good at both the structured and unstructured side of customer information. In general companies were either good at one or the other, but it was hard to cross that line.
Now organisations are realising that they can’t manage all information equally well, so they are starting to prioritise, focusing their knowledge and learning on particular mission critical jobs and roles.
Business intelligence has been a sort of marginal activity for a lot of organisations, [It] needs to get more strategic and central to the strategies of organisations. But if you look at Barclaycard, Capital One, Amazon and Google, analytics is critical to what they do, it supports some very strategic capabilities. For me, under-leveraging the resource from a strategic standpoint is the most important problem we have with business intelligence, as opposed to necessarily using more information.
It is fairly rare for organisations to integrate the structured and unstructured content from the data mining and BI standpoint. But there are examples of companies which are looking at more unstructured data from a BI standpoint. At Honda they study the text data that service people supply, and use it to look for key terms which could give an early warning about any serious quality problems. This allows them to take remedial actions early.