Happy 5th birthday Future Proof! Birthday wish: info management is business critical and complex so it needs strategic vision July 10, 2013

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Future Proof’s very first post, New IAMS contract can save you money, was published five years ago today. Happy birthday Future Proof!

Looking back, the overarching themes that emerge through Future Proof’s 164 posts are that:

  • information management is a business-critical task
  • information management is an incredibly complex task
  • effective information management needs coordination and a strategic vision.

Given these ideas echo through so many Future Proof posts we were really excited to hear about the new book by Peter Aiken, The Case for the Chief Data Officer: Recasting the C-Suite to Leverage Your Most Valuable Asset. (Thanks Luke Barnier for the reference!)

In his book Aiken argues for the creation of a management position in each organisation called the Chief Data Officer, a role responsible for managing organisational data as a critical and core strategic asset.

In an interview with Mark Brunelli of SearchDataManagement, Aiken argues that data is ‘the sole non-depleting, non-depreciating, durable strategic asset for organisations’. In this interview Aiken says that people assume chief information officers are handling the strategic management of information. ‘But it turns out they are not – or they’re only doing it for a fraction of their time because they’re also responsible for the email, for backup and recovery, for developing new systems and a plethora of stuff. Even if they are trying to pay attention to it, it’s getting a fractional amount of their attention.’

In an interview in Information-management.com with Justin Kern, Aiken weighs up the impacts of this professional overload. He says ‘A chief medical officer doesn’t have ancilliary duties like making sure their hospitals are stocked with supplies. Unfortunately for our CIOs, we have set them up not to be successful information officers.’

Again in his interview with Kern, Aiken says that, ‘What has to happen is that data is treated as fuel that moves your business, and it’s what people really want from an innovation perspective. Organizations [must] start to realize that data is a unique asset, and a durable one… We manage our durable assets with professionalism and care, and neither of those are occurring in the data world.’ Therefore he recommends a specific management position to bring strategy and coordination to data/infromation management – the chief data officer.

Instead of reporting to the IT area, Aiken argues in his interview with Brunelli that the chief data officer ‘must be dedicated solely to learning how to leverage the data asset in the organisation. They need to report directly to the business, and there is a very good reason for that. The IT group does not feel the pain of data problems. The business does, but the IT group does not. Consequently there is a lack of understanding and a lack of appreciation for the role that data plays in the business.’

While speaking to Kern, Aiken states that for a chief data officer to achieve success, ‘business data architectures [must be] a business function, not an IT function. In fact, the only data management areas that stay behind with the CIO are the actual development of databases and the tuning, backup and recovery of the data delivery systems, with security shared between IT and business. Another one of the contentions is that data management must precede and be separate from the systems development lifecycle. None of those work if you’re trying to develop data assets at the same time as you’re trying to develop these systems. Lastly, it has to be a full-time position. We have to overcorrect for the negligence we’ve given this [role] in the past.’

In a completely different context Tim Sherratt recently said  ‘data, according to some pundits, is the new oil’. Like Aiken, I would argue that  to manage an asset of this size and value we need the type of strategic, business-connected, far-sighted perspective that Aiken connects to the Chief Data Officer role. The silos, disconnects, non strategic, project-based perspectives that have governed much information management in the past are unsustainable. We need to move beyond the current short-sighted, technology and application driven views of information management to managment frameworks that are based on business and information requirements rather than pre-determined technological orientations.

And that’s what Future Proof would like for its birthday! A widespread appreciation of the criticality and complexity of contemporary business information and for that understanding to translate into coordinated and strategic action that manages information as a core business asset across government. Not too much to ask for surely! Actually though, our wish is already on its way to coming true. There is as we speak much fantastic strategic work going on in this space and we would love to hear your views on it.

OK, must dash, Future Proof is going off to party, but before we do, we just want to say thank you so much to all of you who have followed Future Proof over the past 5 years. We so, so value and appreciate all the feedback we receive through the blog. Over the last 5 years Future Proof has evolved to become one of State Records’ core business systems because of the level of engagement and response we get from you to all the various ideas we put out there. We really are incredibly grateful. And finally, we would like to give a very special thanks and shout out to the wonderful Cassie Findlay, Katharine Stuart and Anthea Brown who started up Future Proof all those years ago. Thanks lovelies! Here’s to many more happy years of blogging!

photo by: Nico Nelson
Janet Villata July 11th, 2013

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Future Proof and the team that makes it happen. It is a fantastic blog, thought provoking and innovative and contributes greatly to the dialogue on information management in the 21st Century. Well done – make sure you have some cake and champers to celebrate. Hope you get your wish!

Kate Cumming July 11th, 2013

Thank you Janet! And thank you for all your blogging brilliance over the years!

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