What is information management? May 19, 2014

Alien Landscape 14Information is at the core of government business, and is a core asset. A big deal  is made of this in government ICT strategies (NSW, New Zealand) and it is commonly heard from ICT research firms like Ovum and Gartner,  but what does it actually mean? We emphasise that it if you want value from information, you need sophisticated strategies to manage it rather hoping for some technological breakthrough to solve all your problems and deliver that often-promised but elusive value.

So when we talk about information management, we are talking about the discipline which allows these information assets to be governed, protected, and prioritised. We are talking about building an organisation’s capability to realise strategic value from its digital information.

What do we expect information management to achieve? Good information management enables good business practices now, and must also prepare the organisation for the future.  It helps organisations to have meaningful and usable information available when their business needs it and provides mechanisms for ensuring accountability and managing risk.

But we acknowledge that good information management is also complex. The volume of information generated is challenging: attempting to manage all of an organisation’s information with the same tools and processes is not going to be an effective approach.  Information managers need to collaborate with business groups and ICT staff to define how information should be created, managed, used and reused.

Defining good information management

We think that good information management needs to be:

Designed

Information management strategies need to be considered before a system or solution is implemented. Strategies need to complement the business process and be framed to the specific issues and risks your business faces.

Focussed on strategic objectives

Information management must enable good business. However, good information management also provides value for the broader public sector, and the community. Implementing good information management practices provides the opportunity to consider benefits more strategically, rather than a narrow focus of meeting the needs of a single process or pressing demand.

We are working with our colleagues overseeing the NSW Information Management Framework. One of the goals of that framework is to “ensure that data and information can be appropriately shared or re-used by agencies, individual public sector staff, the community or industry for better services, improved performance management and a more productive public sector”.

Integrated with relevant systems

In organisations, all systems create and manage information and management strategies should be designed and deployed for all system environments where high value and high risk business information is located.

Focussed on short and long term needs

Information management strategies provide organisations with information that enhances the effectiveness of its current operations. It also needs to articulate what the organisation is going to need from its business information in 5, 10, 20, 50 years.

What are the specific responsibilities of information managers?

Information management impacts on all areas of business, and so there are multiple risk and transition points at which information managers should be involved, including:

System and process design

  • facilitate the specification of processes for creating, structuring and managing information according to business needs
  • assist with the development, integration, upgrading and decommissioning of systems, and with the transition to outsourced or cloud services
  • implement training and support for users to understand, leverage and utilise business information

Information sharing and risk

  • identify and address barriers to information sharing and reuse, within and between government agencies, and with the public
  • support information security staff with the identification and implementation of information security requirements
  • identify information risks, and contribute to enterprise risk assessments

Managing information for accountability and value

  • facilitate the identification of core information required to support business processes, and identify strategies for change management, legacy data management and long-term digital continuity
  • identify the necessary attributes of information integrity to support the organisation’s accountability requirements
  • identify compliance rules and requirements for information from legislation and regulations
  • routinely purge  information which is no longer required for regulatory and business purposes, and supporting the maintenance of information with ongoing business value

Have your say

How do you define and describe your profession? What are the responsibilities that are most critical and most defining in your role? How do you position your information management program to make the most impact? We would welcome your contributions in the comments below.

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