Does your organization follow most of the principles that help define “information management”? If not, then how can it expect to make an impact on its business performance by implementing SharePoint 2010 or other suites?

The August editorial theme is SharePoint and information management. I find information management infinitely more interesting and challenging than SharePoint, so stop here if you feel differently!

Every day we face the problems of how to find the information we need to meet personal, family and career objectives. Marshall McLuhan (in War and Peace in the Global Village, 1968) remarked that the one thing that fish are totally unaware of is water, as they have no anti-environment that would enable them to perceive the element they swim in. They take it for granted, and we do the same thing. When we read a list of television programs, or use a sat-nav to guide us around the country, we never think about how the information was collected, and rarely consider the effort that went in to the presentation of the information.

That is just the same in our organization. We usually have no idea about who actually wrote the report we are reading or created the table on the intranet, and we tend to evaluate the information on how well it is presented. Who actually cares about information management in your organization? Information management is not the same as master data management, which seems to be emerging as the new IT buzzword. I can be virtually certain that your organization has no information management strategy, even if it is about to invest millions in a SharePoint implementation. That’s like building a new factory before you’ve decided what you want to manufacture.

How about an Information Management Charter?

The concept of information management is not easy to define. For some time I was struggling to find a mid-point between a glib sentence and a complete strategy until I drove past Runnymede, near Heathrow Airport, which was where the Magna Carta was signed in 1215. So why not an Information Management Charter? It might read something like this:

Our commitment to all our employees is that they can:

1. Find the internal and external information they need to make effective business decisions that:

  • reduce corporate risk
  • speed the achievement of strategic and operational objectives
  • enable them to develop their careers

2. Trust that information they find will be the best and most current available

3. Be certain that every piece of information is owned by an individual employee who has the time and support to ensure that it is updated or deleted when appropriate

4. Publish information so that it can be found and used by other employees as quickly as possible

5. Locate and take advantage of the expertise and experience of other employees

6. Link to internal and external social and business networks

7. Be confident that the roles and responsibilities of their manager include ensuring that their information requirements are recognized and addressed appropriately

8. Be reassured that the organization complies with all legal and regulatory requirements for the retention, use and transmission of information

9. Take advantage of training in how to be effective users and managers of information resources

10. Be confident that a member of the Board takes responsibility for effective information management and signs off on this set of principles

Take Control of Your Information Assets

To me, these ten statements sum up the principles of information management. If you posted these on your corporate intranet, would all employees say “Absolutely -- that’s the way we see it,” or would they find it difficult to tick more than a few of these principles as being upheld? If the latter situation is the case, then how does your organization think, even for one moment, that implementing SharePoint 2010 is going to make any impact on the business performance of the company?

It all comes down to seeing information as a strategic asset of the company, and because the value of this asset does not appear on the corporate balance sheet, no one pays attention to it, and no one wants to own it because there is no glory and certainly no bonus in doing so.

Have a look at the research in these three reports. All of them suggest that organizations are losing control of their information assets:

I fear that too many organizations have already lost the plot and are hoping that SharePoint (or the IBM/Oracle, etc. suites) will bring things back under control. If you are in that situation, then it might well be time for a career move. When you go for the interview, why not take my ten principles along and see how many the prospective employer can tick? It could make an interesting start to the interview!

Editor's Note: You may also be interested in reading: