Many of us are looking at recent economic events and trying to understand how enterprise information management could or should have headed off the problems we face today. In last month's article, I offered a working definition of EIM as a comprehensive approach to handling data/information as an asset. For a more solid understanding, it is necessary to reinforce this definition and develop some detail regarding what actually goes into EIM.

The past few months of economic disaster have called into focus the most critical importance of EIM: a good EIM business program will serve to keep your organization out of trouble. We've since heard a lot of comments like these:

  • "We had no idea the exposure was so high."
  • "We are working hard to find out exactly how many mortgages are involved."
  • "Our biggest need is to track derivatives - we are using spreadsheets at the moment."

An EIM program that will keep you out of trouble and leverage data and content for your business requires several layers of interacting components. Figure 1 lists these components and loosely describes how they fit. The goal is management of information, data and content to meet the needs of the business. The entire framework of EIM has to exist in a business environment. The unique intersection of the business environment and your organization will determine how business is accomplished. EIM in a small company or in a developing nation is not going to require the same makeup as EIM in a highly regulated and/or advanced corporation. Hard economic times will necessitate different component interaction than good economic times. But in general, the following are key components a businessperson must pay attention to for success.

  1. Business model. This layer reflects and represents how your organization operates to accomplish its goals. Are you bureaucratic? Lean and mean? Decentralized or federated? Government or nonprofit? The manner in which you get things accomplished is your business model.
  2. Information handling and use. Part of EIM is making sure that data and content is handled properly, efficiently and benefits the business without extra risk. How much redundancy are you comfortable with?
  3. Information lifecycle. Data and content have a lifecycle. It enters the enterprise, is used, changed, read and analyzed but then must go away. EIM balances the conflict of retiring data versus the cost and risk of keeping data a long time.
  4. Applications. How data is used reflects directly on the value of data. If you are managing your data as an asset, then the only way to know if that asset has value is to understand how and where it is used.
  5. Technology. The extent to which organizations deploy various technologies is also a component of EIM. (I promised a "low tech" discussion in my articles, but take a look at your BI maintenance and support budgets, divide by the number of knowledge workers, and you'll see why this is relevant.)
  6. Organization. When you take on EIM, organizational changes may be in order. For one thing, you will need to implement positions and accountabilities for the information being managed. You cannot manage inventory without a manager, and you cannot tackle information management without someone accountable for accuracy and availability. When in doubt, think of the data in your organization as raw material.
  7. Compliance. You have a compliance department. It may be one lawyer, a liaison to a regulator or an entire building of high-strung audit types, but you do have compliance. EIM requires you merge the regulatory risk that goes with data into this area.
  8. Enterprise DNA. "Where is the data we need to analyze this issue?" This is a common question. A key component of EIM is tracking where data came from, who touched it, and where and when it should go away. If you are an executive, you may be surprised to realize that your organization has most likely cut this feature from the budget of every data project done in the last 15 years. EIM means that you need to know full lineage, definitions and rules that go with each class of data.  Are there rules and tracking of employees and of complicated machinery? Of course. Why not track the data?
  9. Culture. Every organization has a culture. When you engage in EIM, you put stress on that culture. People need to act differently. Accountabilities change. Sadly, organizations often believe that the new program or solution is so self-evident that managing this pressure during a period of change is not required. The perception exists in many organizations that utilizing good change management practices is fluffy, soft stuff that takes too much money, time and energy. However, it's one of the most critical things to pay attention to. In fact, culture change management is probably the main contributor to success in EIM.
  10.  Governance. When processes change due to EIM, we need to see that the guidelines and policies remain in place. Like compliance, governance is primarily a means to manage risk, in this case, risk of returning to the point you left. In addition, most information programs tend to run out of the feeling of newness (that new car smell). When they do, governance ensures that the new roles and data standards are perpetuated. The department most likely to bypass these new policies is IT, but solid governance will overcome areas of resistance.
  11.  Managed content. What is being managed in EIM covers all enterprise content, including reports, forms, memos, catalogs, Web pages, databases and spreadsheets. All enterprise content can be valuable, and all enterprise content can contain risk. It is an asset. Do you only manage the cash or finance in certain areas and not others? No. Why then allow row and column data to be managed and other content to be untouched?

As you can see, there are many components to EIM that must interact with each other. EIM requires a commitment to doing things differently as far as data and content is concerned. Figure 1 may seem daunting - it looks like another one of those consultant-driven guru models, like process reengineering or CRM. However, it is not a sinkhole for money. It is not a program without a business case. More importantly, it is not hard to do in terms of large projects, huge staffs and budgets.

Many organizations can start with EIM and have no incremental increase in spending. Nearly all organizations can generate a huge ROI from EIM. The generation of a business case will be the topic of my next article.

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