Information makes the business world go 'round. We create it, gather it, sift it and use it to make all decisions. With ever present competitive pressures, wide access to global markets and the ups and downs of our economy (to name a few things) it has become imperative that we look at our information as a strategic asset, and put in place tools and strategies to use it intelligently. This is what information management agility is all about.

What is Information Management?

The term information management basically means the gathering and managing of information, and ensuring that the right information is made available to the right people. What constitutes information is typically up for discussion, but encompasses everything from structured and unstructured content, records, social media and so on. 

Managing that information can take many different forms from document management, capture and archiving, records management and more.

What is Information Management Agility?

We know how important information is for our organizations. But it's not simply a matter of managing our information effectively. It's also about how we use this information to quickly respond to the rapid changes taking place in market.

Quickly responding is the key here -- meaning that we are agile. How can we manage our information and make it available to the right people at the right time to provide competitive advantage.

In an article on CIO, Michael Schrage describes agility this way:

In the first and final analysis, agility is about timely and cost-effective implementation. Full stop. Planning is nice. Analysis is good. Governance is groovy. But agility means action. Agility implies both the capacity and capability to act. Now. Immediately. Real-time. That doesn't mean the enterprise has to instantaneously act or react — only that it has the power to do so.

Schrage is not speaking of agility in terms of information management specifically, but what he says makes sense just the same: if information is our key asset, how can we use it to support our employees in making the right decisions?

There are many different strategies and associated technologies to support information management agility:

Enterprise CMS as a Platform

There has been a lot of discussion about the future of enterprise content management. Many believe that the traditional ECM suites are becoming a thing of the past and that ECM needs to take a more platform approach. 

A platform approach would enable organizations to create applications and/or services that are built specifically around the organization's needs. 

Case Management 

Case Management is one specific application of ECM as a platform. Case Management is the grouping of information related to a specific topic, or case, into a central location for people to work on it.  

Business Process Management

Business process management is a way to automate and manage structured, repeatable business processes. Business processes are typically a set of activities, inputs and outputs that together achieve a particular business goal.  Case Management is not the same as Business Process Management because individual cases are unique with their own variations whereas BPM deals with structured processes and clearly defined outputs.

There has been increasing discussion on how to integrate social capabilities into BPM allowing employees to contribute to the improvement of the business processes. 

Here are some predictions Gartner made on BPM for 2010 and beyond.

Enterprise 2.0

Enterprise 2.0 is about how you can introduce social capabilities into your business processes and systems to support knowledge workers. Enterprise 2.0 capabilities support enterprise collaboration, innovation management, knowledge management and more -- all things that help knowledge workers get their jobs done more effectively, thus improving the organization's bottom line.

We talked a lot last month about enterprise collaboration, knowledge management and Enterprise 2.0 overall. This month we are going to focus on the integration of E2.0 and ECM, and other business systems to provide information management agility.

Social CRM

CRM, or Customer Relationship Management, is a combination of processes and tools used by organizations to manage their interactions with customers and potential customers. Traditional CRM is more about operationalization, but Social CRM is about relationships, interacting with customers and potential customers in the places they are most comfortable.

Obviously there is a lot of information gathered from customers and prospects that can help an organization make informed decisions not only for that particular customer but for the business overall.

Using Information to Make Things Happen 

All of the strategies/technologies mentioned above support the ability to leverage information within the organization to achieve business objectives. But these are only a sample of what is needed to manage information effectively. Others include search/findability and GRC.

But it's not just about how to manage the information. It's also about ensuring you are creating and/or gathering the right information for the right audiences. Which means you need to carefully define your Information Management Strategy. You need to think about how information can get you what you want and then define your approach(es) for using it. 

What's Coming This Month

Throughout the month of September we are pulling together a number of articles -- many from those in the field -- focused on Information Management Agility. We hope to cover the different strategies, tools and hot discussions in the field today that will help you understand how your information, if used properly, can provide strategic advantage.

If you feel you have something to contribute to the conversation we encourage you to contact us at editors@cmswire.com. Otherwise, leave your thoughts and insights in the comments of one of our published articles throughout the month.