Information management – a critical business enabler…or barrier to success!

Published on Tuesday 11 June 2013 by in News with no comments

Aranea, together with  VIAG (society for coordination of municipal information provisioning and automation) organized an Information management roadshow as part of the BiSL IM coalition activities. The event was hosted by the local council in Oss in the Netherlands, and was attended by 16 professionals from various municipal organizations, all involved in Information management.

The session was to raise awareness for the growing need for Information management (IM), to discuss and explore success and fail factors facing both business and IT organizations and to capture some concrete takeaways. The GamingWorks business simulation game ‘Bookstore’ was used as an enabler for the session.

Frank Roumans from Aranea launched the session explaining that change seems to be the constant factor, ever changing business demands for IT, ever changing technology opportunities and ever  changing market and customer needs. CSI (Continual Service Improvement) is a critical capability for many IT organizations to be able to align to these continual changes, yet many are poorly equipped to make change happen. All this change creates an increasing demand for Information. Information is a critical business enabler; the need for accurate, timely and complete information. This means that Information is becoming a strategic asset, which if incorrectly managed can prevent business growth and create a risk to strategy realization.

Information Management is, in the Aranea vision the ‘linking pin’ between the business & IT.

Mark Smalley, self proclaimed IT Paradigmologist and global champion for the ASL-BISL Foundation presented some  key trends and observations relating to business & IT alignment and the need for IM.  We all recognize the demand and supply model, but there is a third element ‘Use’ do we get the value from the ‘Use’ of the supplied IT solutions. The changing business use and dependency on IT and Information as a strategic asset, means that IT organizations need to transform their capabilities. Are they able to do this? Mark quoted some Forrester research, stating that ‘IT organizations rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic while business executives engage directly with external IT service providers’.  IT should be asking themselves. ‘Are we innovative enough? Fast enough? Do we deliver the right quality? Do we deliver value? Do we fit with the needs of the business and do we have the right relationship’?. But the problem isn’t just the IT department. Mark quoted Jerry LuftmanIT doesn’t understand the business, but the business understanding of IT is even worse’.  

The business is seeking to regain power and control over IT investments, but with power comes ‘ responsibility’: is the business adequately taking its responsibility to govern IT? Mark showed how 9.2 billion Euro productivity was lost in the Netherlands last year, as a result of poor training. In addition to this productivity loss, inadequate IM leads to misinterpretation of information, resulting in poor decision making; IT budget is spent on the wrong things, solutions do not meet the business needs, market opportunities are missed. Using a framework like BiSL helps assess the current capabilities, facilitate the dialogue between business and IT and scope the necessary improvements for canadian pharmacy managing Information as a strategic asset. BiSL is an instrument that can be used to bring together and educate both the business and IT in Information management. A business simulation, such as bookstore is another powerful instrument for confronting both parties on their current behavior, fostering a better understanding of each other’s needs and for agreeing improvements actions.

Arjen Droog managing partner from Aranea explained challenges facing local government organizations, using an example. Many local governments are faced with a need to consolidate and centralize services, one such being ‘ Youth care’.  Youth care involves more than 30 different governmental departments and external organizations. There is a massive amount of information, often overlapping, sometimes inconsistent and a growing need for aligning and sharing information, for making the massive amount of information ‘ useful’  and ‘ manageable’.

IM plays a vital role, perhaps even a LEADING role…

With the scene set on the value and importance of Information management within the local government context delegates then took part in the BookStore business simulation game. In this simulation game they play the Business, Information management and IT roles of a fictive book company called BookStore. BookStore wants to exploit emerging technologies and move towards more digital capabilities to grow the business.

In the first game round the IT strategy and planning was poorly aligned with the Business strategy. The business had too little insight and control into what IT was doing to realize the strategy. IT was involved too late and had little understanding of the business strategy and planning. IT was ‘ doing Its thing’ – managing operations, maintaining Information systems stability and the IT processes, IT investments and changes were not aligned with the business. There was ineffective communication, ineffective decision making and a risk that the strategy would not be realized.  Between game rounds the teams reflected on how things had gone and the facilitators used their knowledge of Information management best practices such as BiSL or the 9-cell (9 vlaks) model to help teams reflect, discuss and prioritize improvements. The second game round results in better business performance and less ‘them and us’  feeling between business and IT. In the second game round the Information management roles had created a clearer role for themselves as the ‘ linking pin’ between business and IT.

At the end of the game the teams reflected. ‘What did we learn today that we need to take away and apply as critical success factors in our organizations’ ?

  • Business, Information management and IT need to get together early in the strategic decision making process. IT is often involved too late or IT input is missing.
  • There needs to be a better understanding of each other’s future needs and more asking and explaining  ‘why?’, rather than ‘dumping or throwing over the wall’, to gain a better mutual understanding.
  • The Information management role isn’t just a ‘messenger’ role from the business. IM needs to facilitate the expertise to ensure that a translation is made between the business strategy and longer term focus, and IT’s operational focus and short term needs.
  • IT needs to learn more ‘push back’, by explaining in terms of value, outcomes, costs, risks. IT is often better able to see risks and threats but poor is explaining or making business cases.
  • The need for an effective ‘ Information plan’  based on the organization strategy. This gives a shared direction, focus and helps with investment and resource planning. This also ensure projects are more readily accepted and less effort needed to continually explain why projects are started.
  • More structure required in ‘meetings’ , more ‘ agreements’ & ‘ decision’ taken at the right level. E.g ‘ strategic steering committee (involving Business, IT and IM). Ensuring that strategic, tactical and operational meetings address the right issues and can escalate up and down as necessary.
  • IM is not just there to ‘pass on’ business demands but has a clear role in helping align business and IT investments, decisions and strategy realization.
  • The need for clearly defined tasks, roles, responsibilities, authorities, decision making, and the need to stick to these agreed roles and the need to confront each other on these responsibilities.

See the global list of CSF’s captured from roadshow events

Following the business simulation, Stefan Maas, Senior Consultant at Aranea, shared his experience on improving information management at the Municipality of Venray.  

A key success factor in this case was working together with both business and IT representatives to define the activities, roles, responsibilities and accountabilities between business and IT and within IT. These were recorded in RA(S)CI matrices, and were then embedded in People (roles, job descriptions, capabilities development) and processes (BiSL processes). This resulted in a restructuring of the Information management and IT department to better align IT with the business and create a sustainable Information management capability.

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