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Creating a Company Culture that Values Information

  • December 01 2002, 1:00am EST

The value of information or, more precisely, extracting value from company information is what business intelligence (BI) is all about. Information is an asset that can be used to acquire insight into business operations and make business decisions which will improve business performance. A company culture is the collection of beliefs, attitudes, behaviors and practices that people in an organization bring to their work. Developing sound beliefs, attitudes, behaviors and practices about the value and use of information is critical to the use of BI as a strategic business tool.

A culture that values information is one that expects all levels of the organization, including executives, to get and use hard data in daily work. Creating a culture that values information and uses it well is a challenge for every company. I believe it is an important part of the CIO's job to lead the transformation into an information-driven culture. One way the CIO can do this is by enhancing IT strategy and architecture documents.

Two of the more overworked words in the IT professional's vocabulary are strategy and architecture. There are business strategies, technical strategies, information strategies and strategic applications. There are technical architectures, data architectures, information architectures, network architectures, application architectures and – well, you get the idea. What strategies and architectures mean for business intelligence is this: In order to effectively build beliefs, attitudes, behaviors and practices that value information, data and metrics must be incorporated into these core IT documents. Doing so places the CIO in a leadership position for the use of data, metrics and analytics as essential to the management process.

Figure 1: Enhanced IT Strategies for Success with BI

Let's look at IT strategy. The spectrum of strategies a CIO works with includes the company's business strategy (if one exists), a technology strategy for the hardware and systems software that supports the business activities and goals, an application strategy for the portfolio of computer applications that support the business, and an information strategy for critical information in the business. Adding BI components can enrich each strategy and provide a basis for monitoring its success as well (see Figure 1):

Business Strategy: Adding metrics to a business strategy provides the basis for knowing what must be accomplished operationally to achieve a strategic goal and the management monitoring that will occur to make progress toward achieving strategic goals. This practice is common in companies where dashboards and monitoring key performance indicators are common. In companies where that is not the case, enhancing the business strategy with metrics can begin the process of building beliefs, attitudes, behaviors and practices that value information.

Technology Strategy: Technology strategies usually focus on the core elements of the technical infrastructure for the company. Organizations need to include PDA and wireless components that BI technologies support for information delivery. Organizations that value information deliver it effectively and quickly.

Application Strategy: The applications that process business transactions and support business activities need to be managed strategically as business needs and technologies change. Including metrics for the performance, functionality, technical and business quality, and support requirements provides a basis for monitoring the IT components that support business operations. Organizations that value information expect useful data about operations and results.

Information Strategy: The use, storage, organization, ownership and data relationships of information have been the focus of information strategy. It is important to add information delivery and usability factors as well. These factors include data stability/volatility (frequency of providing business people with new updates), delivery timing (time/s of day) and means (e-mail, OLAP product, PDF, wireless notification), and so forth. In other words, enhance the information strategy to include nonstatic attributes of company data and information.

All of these suggested enhancements to IT strategy documents provide a foundation for beliefs, attitudes, behaviors and practices that value information, establish IT leadership for establishing these cultural attributes and build on the capabilities of BI as a strategic tool.

Companies that are successful with BI incorporate information into their daily business routines. This is the greatest challenge most organizations face and is their biggest obstacle to achieving world-class BI capabilities. Simply put, BI is an essential component for success in today's business world. Companies succeeding with BI are including metrics, information delivery and information usability in business and IT strategies and architectures. CIOs must play a leadership role in creating a culture that values information and establishing BI as a critical strategic technology.

Next month I will explore enhancing IT architectures to incorporate information value and BI.

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