Information Maturity (Waaaaaaah!!!)

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OK, the state of information maturity—how well organizations monetize, manage and measure their information assets—may not be worth throwing a tantrum over (or “spitting the dummy” for those you Down Under). But when compared to the rigor and process and discipline with which other “balance sheet” assets are managed, measured and monetized, the attention paid to information assets pales. baby-crying-in-cap-information

Just imagine for a moment a manufacturer that decides not to sell some of its products, just leaving them in the warehouse. Or imagine a retailer with no inventory of what’s on its store shelves; an accountant who has no way to gauge the company’s financial position; or an HR executive with no process for measuring employee performance. Ridiculous right? Well that’s more or less the state of information monetization, management and measurement today.

Only in the past few years have we seen the welcome emergence of an executive role specifically for tending to information: the chief data officer (CDO). This is 60 or 70 years since the rise of the chief financial officer, 30 or so years since chief human resource officers started appearing, and about 20 years since chief risk/security officers started being anointed.

Yes chief information officers (CIOs) have been in place for decades, but their purview has been tilted toward the monetization, management and measurement of technologies. (Behind their backs, CIOs are referred to as chief infrastructure officers.) Information’s role has been relegated to an input and an output–at worst a byproduct, and at best a resource. But not a true asset.

However, digital business and analytics in particular have rendered it ever-more vital to the organization, intensifying the need for effective enterprise information rigor. This should have elevated the role of information to another economic asset. Yet data and analytics leaders such as the CDO struggle to make the case and therefore struggle to improve the organization’s information maturity.

Workshops I have conducted around the world assisting information and business leaders self-assess and remedy their state of enterprise information capabilities offer a lens to view typical and unique information maturity challenges.

The broad concerns of these leaders were about leadership, priorities, resources and corporate cultures that forestall advances. These concerns emerge from the attendees’ acute awareness of their present information-related capabilities. The vast majority of these leaders described their respective organization as either:

“Aware” — aware of information availability issues but unable to make significant progress to overcome them, or “Reactive” — responding to information problems, with steps toward improved information availability hindered by a range of causes. In both cases, information leaders are responding to the dictates of circumstances, which repeat themselves because leaders cannot or do not devote the time needed to change those circumstances.

In both cases, information leaders claim they are confused, uncertain or frustrated in breaking free of inertia and habitual approaches. Typically, workshop participants feel more confident in their organizational structure and roles, and quite satisfied (if not overwhelmed) with the level of technology at their disposal. On the other hand, many admit they have not addressed information-related metrics or information life cycle issues at all.

The root cause of most issues seems to stem from information (even big data) being considered an infant compared to other grown-up enterprise assets. Like a child who cannot vote or drive, information is not considered an asset according to accounting standards, and not considered property by most insurance policies. As a result, information is not counted or quantified by most organizations, leading to immature information management practices and squandered monetization opportunities.

It’s time for information to grow up, don’t you think?

(About the author: Doug Laney is vice presidentt and distinguished analytst, Chief Data Officer Research & Advisory, at Gartner Group. This post originally appeared on his blog site, which can be viewed here).

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