A successful information quality or information management initiative, like any other endeavor, needs management commitment to provide the funding and resources to accomplish it, right? Wrong! These two initiatives are business transformation and culture change initiatives and, as such, need more than buy- in. These initiatives require active involvement and management transformation.

Initiatives that change how people work cannot happen unless management understands and accepts its own stewardship role and becomes actively involved in making that transformation. In other words, management must change how it performs its work in order to accomplish the transformation or culture change.

Therefore, the goal is not to obtain management commitment, buy-in or approval. The goal is to lead management into the involvement and transformation necessary to make the initiative succeed.

The Good News

Those of you implementing information quality improvement or enterprise information resource management (IRM) have a trump card to gain management commitment and active involvement because strategic management always looks for ways to better accomplish its enterprise goals and reduce costs at the same time. Without a strong enterprise information management implementation and an effective information quality management environment, organizations squander from 15 to more than 20 percent of their operating revenue in information scrap and rework. Without effective information management, organizations squander as much as 50 percent of their information systems and information technology budgets in cost-adding activities that do not contribute value to either internal or end customers. The waste caused by nonquality information and the inefficient use of information technology is unnecessary, even though it may be accepted as a normal cost of doing business.

When you implement information resource management and information quality improvement effectively, you directly reclaim much of this waste, decrease costs, increase profits, improve business process effectiveness, reduce cycle time, increase information systems productivity, etc.

If you have the right purpose and you implement well, you will directly contribute to the enterprise goals when you accomplish your goals. This is your trump card. To get what you need from management, all you have to do is to play it.

The Challenge

There are obstacles in the way of playing your trump card, but here are the basic steps to secure the active management involvement you require.

First, you must have a trump card. Do you have something to offer senior management that will help them solve their problems? Never ask management for something simply to help you solve your problems. If you ask management for money to develop an enterprise information architecture, you will be holding a deuce you will have to play against kings, queens and aces of business priorities. Your permission to work in your organization is for the sole purpose of helping accomplish the enterprise mission. You must be able to say, "[Your initiative here] is how you can accomplish [their objectives here]. Here is how we can accomplish this quickly, and here are the costs and risks if we continue with the status quo."

Second, you have to be in the game. Are you, in fact, in the game at the same level as management? You must find ways to let management know you are working toward the same objectives.

Third, once you are in the game, you must understand the rules. Do you know the rules for understanding management problems and how they expect you to communicate with them? If you think deuces are wild when they are not, your play may end up costing you dearly. You must understand what makes an effective message and find an appropriate way to communicate that message with management as they have limited time and accessibility and you have competing approval-seekers (i.e., your competition).

Fourth, once you know the rules, you must have a strategy regarding when to play your trump card. If you play this card at the wrong time, you can lose it. Do you have a plan for developing the relationship with management and communicating your message?

Fifth, once you have your strategy, you must take your turn. You cannot play out-of-turn. Timing is important. Do you know when to communicate with management? When opportunities of crisis or high costs of nonquality come along, capitalize on these opportunities. The Y2K crisis was one such opportunity; however, precious few organizations truly exploited this opportunity to increase the effectiveness of IRM in their organizations.

Sixth, once your turn comes, you must play your trump card. If you misplay, you may squander the opportunity, losing management commitment and involvement. Worse yet, if you fail to play, you might be disqualified. If you do not communicate the truth of bad practices in business terms and provide alternatives ­ and someone else does ­ you may fail to receive credit for being an agent of change and lose credibility.

Finally, once you have played your trump card and won the pot, invest it wisely. In other words, deliver on your promise. You must help management change its behavior, and you must implement your part. This requires you to change your behavior. You cannot lead the organization without doing what you ask others to do. By not being proactive to solve management's problems, you may find your job, or your entire department function, eliminated.

The lesson here is that IRM and information quality initiatives must deliver results perceived by your key customers as value- adding. You must measure your results according to business performance measurement terms to establish the value you bring and communicate those measures to those whose support you need. Actually, change that to those whom you need to support.

What do you think? Let me know at Larry.English@infoimpact.com.

Next month I will share tips and techniques that information professionals have used successfully.

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