The Three-Method Path to Information Strategy Enlightenment

Loraine Lawson

How far behind are you if you still don’t have an enterprise-wide information strategy?

Not very far behind at all, it seems: Recent research found that less than 10 percent of today’s enterprises have a “true” information strategy, according to a Gartner news release.

“When asked about the new kinds of information they anticipate as being disruptive in the next few years, half of the respondents to Gartner’s 2013 Worldwide CEO and Senior Executive Survey could not provide an answer or name a technology,” Partha Iyengar, country manager for Research, India at Gartner is quoted as saying. “The social Internet, inexpensive sensors, the Internet of things and other trends will cause an explosion in the types of information that are available.

“In this way, competition will increasingly be defined by differential access, control and value recognition and timely exploitation of information.”


Gartner compares it to business model thinking, which apparently wasn’t mainstream a decade ago.

Then again, in defense of information management workers everywhere, it’s hard to create a strategy around things that didn’t exist in any significant way 10 years ago. That may also explain the next problem Gartner’s research uncovered: No one is really taking responsibility for creating an information strategy.

The more “enlightened” CEOs and boards are starting to see the importance and some are even appointing Chief Data Officers to manage information assets more aggressively, Iyengar added.

It’s not just that our approach to information is outdated. The way enterprises approach integration needs an update.

Often, companies are also struggling to handle the integration work needed to support an enterprise-wide information strategy, according to the Hackett Group, a global strategic business advisory and operations improvement consulting firm.

Last month, the Hackett Group held a best practices conference in North America with the theme, “Borderless Business: Integrating the Enterprise for Sustainable Success.”  I interviewed Hackett Chief Research Officer Michel Janssen and Global IT Advisory Program Leader John Reeves after the event to get their view of what’s happening in terms of information integration.

Reeves outlined several key integration challenges enterprises identified in a recent key issues study conducted by the Hackett Group:

  1. Information quality and consistency. Companies are struggling to ensure customer data is consistent across all business units, particularly the customer-facing lines of business.
  2. Providing integrated information for uses beyond basic reporting and traditional analytics, such as ad hoc reporting and predictive modeling.
  3. Finding talent. Companies need to be able to draw inferences and collect insight from all this information. Otherwise, Reeves said, it’s just noise.

“We haven’t made, as an industry, good enough traction,” Reeves said. “The demand is outpacing our ability to keep up on the implementation side, and that’s why you're seeing heightened priority, even as we’ve been working on this for the past five, seven, ten years even. … What the business is requiring from that integration is moving faster than what we’re able to implement.”

So, obviously, this enterprise-wide information strategy stuff is still evolving, with very few organizations able to claim any level of bragging rights about it.

Where do we go from here? Gartner offers four key focal points for organizational development in its news release, but what I think is probably more appropriate at this point are the research firm’s three methods for achieving “higher levels of corporate enlightenment.” (Apparently, even corporations go to India to achieve enlightenment — who knew?)

Method one: Visualize. No, despite all the enlightenment talk, Gartner is not suggesting you take up meditation. Instead, find a way to visually represent the information you already have.

“Computers today are able to render complex graphical representations cheaply and easily, and as a result creativity in visualization will become a key part of the competitive landscape in the second half of the information age,” Gartner writes. “Companies that find better ways to represent complex information will win in better internal decision making capability and in better service products to their customers.”

Method two: Vision and breakpoint. This is where you help senior leaders envision a broader role for information as a strategy by creating a “visionary scenario for the use of some new kind of information and then plot its future,” the IT research firm advises.

Method three: External exposure. When all else fails, do what everyone in government does and hire an outsider to come in and say it for you. I’m not kidding. That’s an actual recommendation, and as many of us have witnessed, an actual government IT strategy.



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