If your company doesn't have any problems managing its information assets, this test is not for you.

Okay. That should have eliminated ... nobody.

I expect that most people have seen the "self help" tests that are published now and again in magazines, newspapers and newsletters. My guess is that very few people take these tests seriously or make major changes in their lives because of these tests; and I don't expect that you will walk away from this test and change your life ­ because this test isn't really about you.

Many experienced information management professionals and consultants are well-versed on the "right" thing to do when it comes to managing their companies' information resources; yet they still find it difficult to be successful. Why is that? In our outside-of-work life, when we know the "right" thing to do, we do it. For some reason, when we punch the clock, all of that changes.

This "IRM Test" is a series of simple and potentially fun questions that you can ask yourself about your company to give you a clearer understanding of why you are having problems managing information assets. This test is not meant to be taken very seriously, unless, of course, you decide to ask some of these questions to the individuals making the decisions. It may be interesting to compare their answers to yours.

IRM Means Data, Information and Knowledge

Information resources come in many different formats. Information resources, for the purposes of this article, include data, information and knowledge that are defined as follows:

  • Data: Raw source material; transactional output.
  • Information: Data coherently packaged (with meta data) to deliver a message.
  • Knowledge: Information in the context of relevant scenarios and experiences.

The Point Scale

Determine your test score by applying the following point scale. Select only one answer for each question.

-1 point for each "A" answer. One point is taken away because your company recognizes that it has a problem managing its information assets and decides not to do anything about it. This score is very frustrating for experienced information resource managers for a couple of reasons. The obvious reason is that if you selected this answer, it is probably very difficult ­ if not impossible ­ to practice what you preach. The second reason is that you must be concerned that your job could be in jeopardy.

0 points for each "B" answer. No points are taken away but no points are added. Your company has applied a temporary or partial fix to an information management problem. Things aren't getting any worse, but they aren't getting any better either.

+3 points for each "C" answer. Three points are added because your company follows best practices when it comes to managing your information assets. In this environment, the information resource manager has a real chance to be successful. Look at how you answered this question and try to apply the same philosophy when solving other problems identified through the questions of this test.

The Data Score

Do we have a record of all of the data we have or use?

A. It is not important or cost-effective to create such a record.

B. We started to do this when we were solving the Y2K problem. It would take some time, but we could pull it together if we wanted to.

C. Each data source is recorded in a meta data repository.

What do we know about each data source that is recorded?

A. We know who originally designed the data source, but they no longer work in this department (or for this company). They left us with little or no documentation.

B. We can pull together a list of tables (files) and columns (fields) from the data models that exist, but they might not be in sync with the production database.

C. We have an active data model with definitions that must be changed before any physical changes are made to the database.

What do we know about how data moves from one data source to another (target side)?

A. We had a data flow diagram back when the database was designed, but we aren't certain who presently manages the sources or if they know how we use the data or what exact data we use.

B. We know the data that feeds our database, but we are not always privy to changes made until a problem occurs.

C. We know what data feeds our database, and we are involved in (or at least notified of) changes made to these data sources.

What do we know about how data moves from one data source to another (source side)?

A. Different people use our data in different ways, but we aren't certain who is using it or how it is being used.

B. We give people access to our data when they need it, but we don't record why or how they are using the data.

C. We allow others to use our data only after understanding why and how they are using it to make certain that they are using the data properly.

The Information Score

Are business users the ultimate decision-makers when it comes to the definition of data and the definition of what data is needed in new databases?

A. Our business users do not create a lot of new data; therefore, most of the data that they use is older and was defined and designed before they took their roles.

B. The business users are involved in the original design of new databases and provide business descriptions during the initial development phases.

C. No data is added to a database or changed in a database without the business users' involvement in its definition and design.

Do business users report data without complete confidence that the data is correct?

A. Business users often question the results of reports that are produced and find themselves cutting and pasting data when push comes to shove.

B. Occasionally we resort to "doing the best we can" to fill the report requests of the business users, knowing that if we had more time, we could get them better data.

C. Our business users are confident in their understanding of the data they use and have no problems joining data across data sources.

Is meta data available to assist the business users in their understanding of the data they are using?

A. Meta data does not exist for most data sources, but there are still enough people around who originally designed the databases. We can ask them if we have a question.

B. Business users have static data dictionaries in binders or online that give definitions for most of the fields.

C. All business definitions are recorded when the databases are designed and when changes are made. This information is made available to the business users when accessing the data.

Is information shared or does each group manage what it owns?

A. We know that we have silos of redundant data because of the way the data evolved over the years. Even though data may be defined differently across sources, we do the best we can to bring data from these sources together when cross-database types of information requests are made.

B. We have silos of data, but that problem is getting better because new data sources are created using data management best practices, which assure that redundant data sources are retired or eliminated.

C. Data sources are defined, designed, built, changed and used as cross-departmental and shared resources.

The Knowledge Score

Does my company (or my department) understand the differences between managing data and knowledge?

A. My company recognizes the need to share knowledge and counts on people knowing who to turn to when they need knowledge to perform in their job function.

B. My company puts important knowledge online through departmental Web sites, but there aren't any defined procedures for selecting knowledge to post/share or for keeping this information current.

C. My company provides tools and a means for individuals and groups to capture what they know in a form that is shared.

Do we capture knowledge that is unstructured data?

A. Knowledge in the form of unstructured data is stored on the network and backed up as part of our everyday disaster recovery plan.

B. Unstructured data in the form of documents, graphics, audio and video is stored, managed and updated by the person who creates it.

C. Knowledge in the form of unstructured data is recorded and cataloged in a knowledge repository and made available through both simple and complex search capabilities without a need to contact the steward of this knowledge.

What information about knowledge or unstructured data is known and made available throughout the company?

A. There is little known about the knowledge that exists in the company, and individuals often spend large amounts of time identifying and trying to utilize existing knowledge or recreating knowledge from scratch.

B. Each manager is responsible for the knowledge that exists in his/her department, and information about that knowledge is shared with others in the department at the time it is created.

C. For each piece of recorded knowledge, we capture contact information for the owner of that knowledge, where the knowledge is stored, how it can be retrieved and how that knowledge can be leveraged by individuals responsible for specific job tasks and functions.

Are individuals rewarded for sharing knowledge?

A. Knowledge is shared on a need- to-know basis because some people think that giving away their knowledge could jeopardize their positions in the company.

B. Everybody is expected to share their knowledge when asked, but the problem we have is locating or identifying who knows what.

C. Individuals are expected to share knowledge, are evaluated on how well they share their knowledge and are rewarded when knowledge they share is used for the betterment of the company.

Making Sense of Your Scores

This test differs from other "self-help" tests you may have seen in that there is no total score. Each section and question must be taken at its face value.

If most of your answers scored a "-1," run for the hills unless there are major changes on the horizon. Remember that these changes do not come quickly and often they are treated with "lip service" for a long time prior to action. The hurdles that must be jumped to solve problems identified in these questions are hurdles of value and attitude. If you can provide the impetus to change these attitudes, you may become a true hero. Many have lost their jobs or had their jobs eliminated trying to be this hero.

If most of your answers scored a "0," there is a good chance that your company can turn the corner and improve at managing your information resources. These answers indicate a desire to change for the better and indicate that there are steps being taken to do so.

If most of your answers scored a "+3," good for you and good for your company. To answer these questions this way means that your company recognizes the need to manage its information resources. In this situation, the information resource manager has a chance to excel and exceed expectations, new ideas can be introduced (and taken seriously), and job security is not a concern.

I hope that this test was helpful and entertaining and that you didn't take it too seriously. As with other "self-help" tests, this was only written to make you think, or think twice, about what you (and your company) are doing.

Managing information resources in the forms of data, information and knowledge can be an important job in your company only if those individuals who are making the decisions view it as an important job. Over the years, as experienced data managers, information managers and knowledge managers move up in the ranks at their companies and companies become more dependent on their information resources to stay ahead of the competition, we will see companies making great strides in their ability to manage their information resources.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Information Management content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access