Enterprise information strategy Featured

6:06pm EDT October 20, 2004
In last month's column, I introduced the concept of intelligent information -- the intelligent management of information as a critical (although intangible) corporate asset. With intelligent information, we strive to provide all workers with precisely the information they need, without information overload, in a form that fits the way they use the information.

This month I'll talk about the enterprise information strategy (EIS), which is the first step in delivering intelligent information in your organization. In order to meet an organization's goals, it is critical to understand what information should flow from person to person, role to role and team to team within the organization and with external parties such as customers, suppliers and partners.

The purpose of the EIS is to identify the information needs throughout the organization and map these needs to the processes required to share, manage and use the information. The value in creating an EIS comes from two sources: Saving time and effort for information workers to get the information they need to act on and being able to give people necessary information they didn't or couldn't get before, increasing the timeliness, quality and value of the actions they take.


The right stuff

An enterprise information strategy helps to understand how good an organization is at getting the most value from information and what needs to change to do better. The main goals of an EIS are to:


* Ensure that the effort information workers expend to acquire information is minimized


* Ensure that the information created by information workers is not underutilized


* Determine the "right" information needed by information workers, reducing "information clutter"


* Ensure good processes are in place to make the other goals happen


Steps to success

Developing an enterprise information strategy is similar to developing other IT strategies, but the scope is much broader. When done properly, an enterprise information strategy touches all parts of the organization. By following these major steps, team members with good facilitation and visioning skills can develop a very successful EIS.


* Understand the hierarchy of business goals from department, division, and corporate - what they are and how they support each other.


* Catalog information "roles" in each department, which usually correspond closely with titles or positions.


* Define the information needed, information being received and information produced by each of the roles.


* Define the paths and processes for information flow between the "producers" and "consumers."


* Do gap/overload analysis for each role.


* Perform efficiency analysis on information delivery.


* Determine if new/modified practices/processes/systems could streamline information delivery.


* Evaluate the economic impact of changes to information delivery practices/processes/systems.


* Define a value-based roadmap for increasing the value that information has for the organization.


Making better decisions

The final step listed for creating the EIS is to define the roadmap for changes to existing processes and systems that could streamline the flow information and allow more value to be gained from information assets. Although the line is sometimes fuzzy, the processes and systems that manage information can be roughly divided into those that are related to operating the business and those used for analyzing business performance and enhancing decision-making.

With the many existing options around ERP, CRM and SCM systems, the processes and systems used to run the business are usually pretty well-defined. While there are always tweaks that can be made, it's really on the other side of the line that an EIS can have the greatest impact. In next month's column, I'll begin talking about changes in the way companies analyze performance, and the real impact those changes can have for an organization.

The bottom line is that the enterprise information strategy sets the direction for maximizing the value that information assets can have in your organization. Knowing how things are supposed to work is the first step toward making those things happen.

Bryan McClain (bmcclain@icimail.com) is the business intelligence practice manager at Innovative Consulting, an IT services company focused on delivering business intelligence solutions. Reach him at (610) 725-2101.