Data Visionary, Déjà Vu is not the name of a rock band I intend to form, but rather my look at the role technology plays in advancing information-driven innovation. To do this, I consider examples from the past that build foundations for an exciting future.

Information-Driven Innovation


As followers of my ACM article series might anticipate, I see case management technology to be critically important to innovation initiatives, especially when a part of a holistic enterprise information management (EIM) strategy.

My premise is that there are three fundamental data requirements that must be present for information strategies to impact innovation. Simply put, data helps drive innovation when we can:

  • Move it faster
  • Organize it better
  • Put it to work to generate business value

You may conclude, as I did, that the first two have been with us much longer than might originally be supposed -- we have seen these before on our journey! It is the third element though that holds the key and that I think we are just beginning to understand and effectively execute for our enterprises.

Instantaneous Information

Lest we forget, before there was today’s instant messaging, real time data exchange and social collaboration, there was The Victorian Internet. The thoroughly engaging book on this subject from Tom Standage, reminds us that information-based technology game changers have happened before.

The telegraph changed the world forever, transforming data exchange from hand-carried messages to instantaneous information. In what could have been written just last week, this innovation “revolutionized business practice, gave rise to new forms of crime, and inundated its users with a deluge of information.” It would seem that both good news and bad news follow innovation at any time in history, and technology advances most often lead to the demand for additional capability.

Indeed, there is currently an explosion of data both beyond and behind the enterprise firewall, and this presents an information management challenge and an opportunity for innovation. The Economist tells us that by the end of this year,

the amount of traffic flowing over the internet annually will reach 667 exabytes. The world contains an unimaginably vast amount of digital information which is getting ever vaster ever more rapidly. This makes it possible to do many things that previously could not be done: spot business trends, prevent diseases, combat crime and so on. Managed well, the data can be used to unlock new sources of economic value, provide fresh insights into science and hold governments to account.”

Speed continues to be a critical element of current business information strategies, and we have accepted that technology will keep the pace. What is considered a “deluge” of information however has changed dramatically and we have not necessarily conceded that we will be able to properly manage and govern all this data. We do know that as stated in The Economist,

The business of information management -- helping organizations to make sense of their proliferating data -- is growing by leaps and bounds.”

What’s Past is Prologue: Information is the Lifeblood

While information management is indeed a topical issue, here again there is much we can learn from our past. Shakespeare’s The Tempest is full of interesting theatrical allusion, including "what's past is prologue." The metaphor roughly translates as what has already happened sets the stage for will happen. So it is with information innovation.

In the 1990’s, Dr. Scott Morton was the co-director of an MIT school-wide research initiative: Inventing the Organizations of the 21st Century (The MIT Press). Dr. Morton looked at the options opened up to businesses by the evolving communications and information technologies.

He famously wrote in 1991, “Information is the lifeblood of any organization,” and went on to explain that “the purpose of IT is to act as a support in the organization when it comes to managing and using information.” The related model implies that the ultimate outcome of information-based systems evolution is to change the nature of the business itself.

Historically, enterprises looked to IT for operational efficiency, but there is a shift in what businesses, and the public sector, expect from information technology. Technology is now expected to enable new capabilities in response to key pressures and market trends.

No wonder then that McKinsey recently wrote in Winning with IT (March 2013):

Information is becoming the lifeblood of the CPG industry. The demand for technology solutions to enable data-driven decision making will only increase. This is a historic opportunity for IT leaders to drive a true step change in creating value for the business. But staying ahead of the game will require nothing less than a transformation of the IT organization’s mind-set and operating model.”

This is not a phenomenon reserved solely for the consumer goods industry. A few quite recent “in the news” examples from other sectors help illustrate the point:

In Information is the lifeblood of the insurance industry, respected research firm Ovum reports

Insurance companies succeed primarily by identifying profitable risks to insure. The decision depends on insurers having access in realtime or near-realtime to the types and amounts of information required by the underwriters to determine if the prospective applicant could become a profitable client.”

Deloitte writes in its oil and gas industry insight and analysis:

Information is the life-blood of companies and only good data management will allow companies to be competitive in the marketplace. A typical oil and gas company has numerous information systems, each churning through vast amounts of data in order to support a multitude of business decisions.”

And, in Information -- the Lifeblood of Policing, Microsoft tells us:

The former Commissioner of the British Metropolitan Police, Sir Paul Condon QPM (1993 to 2000), referred to information as 'the life blood of policing' -- a statement that’s as true today as it was then. But the sheer volume of data that must be collected and processed by agencies is staggering. Managing it becomes even more daunting when combined with the demands of interagency coordination …”

For each industry then, in its own way, the challenge in “staying ahead of the game” remains proper information management given the speed and volumes of data, and the rate of technology change.

What we can now see quite clearly, perhaps because of what we have seen in the rearview mirror, is the increasing importance and evolving role of information management systems and practices that help industries put their unstructured data to work.

Deliver Business Value: Orchestrating Data with EIM

Enterprise Information Management is the discipline of discovering, managing, extracting value from, and building applications on top of unstructured enterprise information. EIM brings together core technologies and solutions into defined practices that focus on “unleashing the value of information” for the enterprise.


What can happen when you put data to work, successfully linking it to business value? A recent Economist survey profiled in CIO Magazine found that “Companies that have embraced a data-driven culture -- rating themselves substantially ahead of their peers in their use of data -- are three times more likely to rate themselves as substantially ahead of their peers in financial performance.”

Consider this real world EIM example from the Financial Services sector focused on client management that has dynamic case management capabilities at its core:

A large bank deployed a dynamic case management solution so its investment banking back-office processes would be consistent, compliant in all locations, and allow information to flow to the most qualified but lowest cost worker at any given time.

Prior to implementation, its processes were paper-intensive and laden with audit, risk, and compliance considerations. They sought to automate as much as possible, use people resources as little as possible, and find the least expensive worker to get work done. On the value creation side, however, the company focused on getting the right work to the right person anywhere in the global organization to deliver high value results to business customers.

As a result, the company hasincreased customer confidence and improved reporting and response timeliness, plus increased flexibility to add new customers and developed better audit and compliance capabilities."

To translate information-based capabilities into value for the enterprise requires the right technology tool set that can change how the organization accomplishes work. Here is an example of applying case management as a part of a strategic EIM commitment to “going green” in the public sector:

Assuring justice for the nearly one million residents in the most densely populated county in the state of Florida requires personal dedication and the right technology. For the Pinellas County Clerk of the Circuit Court, that meant an adaptive case management solution that could serve the Clerk of the Court office, the courts and the entire Pinellas County judicial system and its citizenry.

Before case management, much of the Clerk office staff time was spent dealing with paper …  looking for missing documents, filing documents and then pulling and transporting paper cases, delaying judges’ rulings and impacting all the stakeholders. Compounding that, attorneys were taking paperwork directly to the court for review and once signed these records might be taken home with the attorney and never come back to the court.

Since the case management solution went live, the paper, storage and transport costs have been significantly reduced -- a particularly important business impact in the current economic climate. The impact on service delivery has been impressive as well, freeing all of the stakeholders to focus on more value-added activities. Judges, attorneys, legal firms, staff and the public can now immediately view entire case files and court records and all their supporting documents 24x7 from any computer, enabling better service to the judiciary and the public."

Child is Father to the Man

While I won’t be forming a rock group anytime soon, I would like to pay homage as I close this article to one of the best albums ever: Child is Father to the Man from music visionary Al Kooper. Just as the title tells us, what we learn from our past forms our present and defines our future. While data-driven strategies are not new, as data visionaries we can see that information-based strategies are one of the most effective ways to create value given the rate of change of both our technology and our markets.

For now and into the future, the ability to harness all this data moving so quickly, to manage this ever growing deluge of structured and unstructured information, and to apply it effectively to our business decisions will continue to offer a wealth of innovation opportunities for the enterprise. Rock on!

Editor's Note: When Deb isn't rocking out to Blood, Sweat and Tears, she's sharing her knowledge of adaptive case management. Read more: The Past, Present and Future of Case Management