The Business Case for Information ManagementOther than not really understanding what information management is, the single biggest obstacle to information management at most organizations is the lack of a viable business case: if you can’t show your CXOs the money, they’re not going to support your efforts. They have a whole portfolio of projects to choose from that generate revenue, reduce costs or increase margins, so if you can’t articulate how information management does one or more of these, you stand little chance of success.

Think Differently

Unlike a product that’s never been seen before or a cutting edge marketing strategy, managing information more effectively is guaranteed to improve how a business operates. After all, organizations only do four things: manage financial assets, manage physical assets, manage human assets and manage information assets. Generating improvements to any of these things will have a significant, tangible impact on an organization.

The challenge, then, is in determining the exact nature of the impact information management will have and articulating its benefits in terms that make sense to executive leadership and will compel them to act, i.e., provide funding and support.

Doing this successfully is most often a matter of thinking a little differently, of trying -- despite the fact that you’re an information management practitioner, IT professional, records manager, etc.-- to think like a business person thinks.

Editor's Note: Read Joe's last post, which introduced why Nobody Really Cares About Information Management

So What

The best way to articulate the value of information management in terms a business leader would respond to is to adopt a relentless skepticism, to keep asking “so what?” until you reach a compelling answer.

For example, a typical (and wildly unsuccessful) information management business case might go something like:

Our survey showed that on average, employees spend 25 percent of their time searching for documents. The median fully loaded employee costs $100,000 a year, and we have 10,000 FTEs. We estimate that improved information management practices could cut the time employees spend searching in half, which would lead to a savings of $125M a year in efficiency gains across all employees.

When this justification fails to get executives to support an information management program that costs less than $10M to fund over three years, folks scratch their heads -- who would be crazy enough to turn their back on $125M annual savings that require so little spend to realize? Let’s dig into this a little.

Show Me the Money

The first so what question any executive with a checkbook will ask is "how certain am I of getting a check in return for the money I’m going to spend?" If we think about the business case example above, the answer is not certain at all. In fact, the way these efficiency gains are articulated, there is no check coming no matter how much you spend on information management. All the executive gets in return for funding information management is a workforce that spends less time searching for documents, but what they do with that 12.5 percent of time we’ve given back to them is unclear. They may spend it taking lunch away from their desks, looking at Facebook or leaving earlier to be with their family -- none of which gives that executive any hard dollar returns.