ESTIMATED READING TIME: 7 MINUTES
We’ve spoken before about what we call the foundations of good information management – Culture, Language, Artefacts, Numbers. (Read about them here).
These are the four areas that operate in every business, which determine the quality of the information (in particular the reliability, creation cost and content accuracy of your reporting) available for use by you and your staff.
So how do you manage these four foundations well, to ensure solid reliability, low cost of creation and trustworthy accuracy?
We’ve identified four “Abilities” which are essential qualities that the four foundations require if they’re to be managed well.
The first ability you need in each of your four foundations is visibility.
within your culture foundation means seeing what’s happening and who’s doing it, who’s responsible for it and so on.
within your language foundation means having access to a comprehensive glossary of business term definitions, seeing who owns that term definition, who wrote it, when it is due for review and any current issues staff have raised with the definition.
within your information artefact management foundation means being able to see what documents, spreadsheets, reports, dashboards, etc exist, who owns each of those artefacts, what information is in them, what uses they’re suitable for, and any issues identified with the information in them.
within your numbers foundation means measuring the information management activity within each of your four foundations.
Some examples of having poor visibility in your information foundations are:
a report that gets questioned and despite their best efforts, staff can’t track everything that goes into that report and therefore you don’t have a satisfactory response to the question, you don’t have visibility over the information involved.
staff know a certain information artefact exists or was created in the past but they cannot find it, you don’t have visibility over your information.
The four foundations of information management have to be established on the back of governance roles within your organisation. A specific person must be accountable for each aspect, in order to ensure it’s on someone’s to-do list.
within your culture foundation means making sure staff know their responsibilities, holding governance meetings regularly and ensuring issues with information are addressed.
within your language foundation means every business term in your glossary needs an owner who is responsible for ensuring the definition is written, is adequate and any issues raised against it are resolved.
within your artefacts foundation means every information artefact is owned by someone who is responsible for ensuring it is accurate, it uses language in accordance with the glossary definitions, it’s listings for privacy and usage are correct, it is archived when out of date and to see any issues raised against it are resolved.
within your numbers foundation means the specific people are accountable for achieving the desired IM metrics and someone is accountable to ensure metrics get measured and reported to the relevant staff.
You’re experiencing a lack of accountability in your information foundations if you’ve:
experienced IM SOPs or Governance requirements that aren’t being followed but no one accepts responsibility, or those who should, blame others.
got a glossary that’s unusable because it’s out of date or has multiple entries for the one word or definition.
staff who’ve identified issues with an information resource but no one knows who should be told about those issues – there’s no one to go to, to get it fixed.
got no metrics in place around your IM, or they’ve been defined but they don’t get reported to anyone.
Once you’ve established who’s responsible to ensure something happens, you’ve got to make sure they have the capability to do that. You’ve also got to ensure anyone with a role in making that happen has the capability to fulfil that task. By capability, we mean they are adequately trained & educated, they have adequate time in their schedule, they have clear directives for the things they must deliver, they have the software and tools they need to deliver these tasks and they have adequate funding to make it all function.
within the culture foundation can mean training & education for select staff or for the entire staff body, purchasing quality software tools and expert support, directives from the top of the organisation promoting the essential nature of quality information and every manager being told they must ensure IM capability in their teams.
within your language foundation means adequate funding and support is provided to establish an organisation wide glossary, which requires quality glossary software and full training for staff both in using the software and writing quality definitions (in our experience, poor quality definition writing will undermine ALL other activity in IM).
within your information artefact management foundation requires software to make this management easy and education covering why artefact management is needed, how to manage ownership responsibilities, as well as training all staff in using the centralised register of artefacts when searching for information or when creating new artefacts.
Within your numbers foundations means education and/or assistance in the implementation of governance frameworks and establishing governance and IM teams. It entails developing and scheduling meetings and reporting hierarchies, support of all managers throughout the organisation and governance teams need funding to ensure reporting is possible, useful and understood by managers.
You have a capability issues:
if you have a glossary tool that can’t do what you need it to, including being accessible by all.
if you have artefacts that are mismanaged (out of date, lost, duplicated, misused, contain poor quality information yet are still used, etc).
if staff struggle to do the IM tasks required, or they find their managers unwilling for them to spend adequate time on those tasks.
if measures are not regularly checked, poorly tracked or undeliverable.
This ability seems to duplicate the Numbers foundation, but we mean two different things. The numbers foundations means the quality of the numbers appearing in reports, financial statements and other measures of business success. Measurability means having the ability to measure that the governance activities in each foundation are actually happening, and how often, and how well.
You have effective measurability:
in your culture foundation when you measure things like staff IM training, glossary use and artefact registration, number of issues raised and the rate of resolution of those issues.
in your language foundation when you can measure things like the use of the glossary, the number of completed definitions, rate of entry of terms into the glossary, the number of issues raised relating to language.
in your artefacts management foundation when you can measure things like the number of artefacts registered, use of the register for searches, the number of issues raised with artefacts and rate of resolution.
in your numbers foundation when you can measure things like the rate of governance team meetings, the escalated issues (unresolvable) and the rate of resolution being found for those, the rate of measures & checks of governance activity being taken. All these measures should be reported to senior managers, who should have a vested interest in seeing governance happening throughout the organisation.
You are experiencing poor measurability when:
you simply don’t know if people are doing the IM activities they’re supposed to be doing.
there’s no knowledge around how much the software is being used.
no one reviews reports and follows up on the rate of issue resolution, or even if there are issues at all,
no one knows how often the IM governance team meets, or whether they meet at all.
The four foundations and four abilities determine the quality of your information.
That’s true information management.
How well is your business doing with its information management?
We’ve developed a free assessment tool that you can take today, to measure how well your business is doing its information management. We’d love you to take it! We’ll send you a report outlining your score in each foundation and we’ll offer our suggestions on how to begin your improvement activities against the four abilities we’ve covered today.
Jump over to The Numbers Game Assessment Tool now.
Mark is a co-founder & Chief Development Officer at Intraversed, helping organisations establish the Intralign Ecosystem, an award winning information management & governance methodology, to achieve reliable information, stable tech spend & greater IT project success.
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