A lot of ink has been spilled (and I’ve spilled my fair share) trying to educate the wider world about how to get information management right — or at least have a better chance of doing so.
And by and large, there's nothing wrong with these efforts. But in my experience, factors outside of information management have as great (if not far greater) an impact on the ultimate success of information management. These include:
- Project Management Maturity — How well does the organization manage projects?
- IT-Business Relations — How healthy/unhealthy is the relationship between IT and the wider organization?
- Demand Management Maturity — How well does the organization manage the overall demand for project work across the enterprise?
- Compliance Maturity — How well does the organization manage risk and compliance?
Unless your organization addresses — or at least accounts for — these factors, you'll have a much harder time making progress with any information management efforts than you otherwise would.
Project Management Maturity
This one is somewhat of a no brainier: after all, if an organization isn’t good a executing projects in general, chances are good they won’t be much better at executing information management projects.
Luckily, it's also the most straightforward of the four to address. Typically, if you can get a strong project manager assigned to your information management efforts, they can at least run your information management project well without having to try to improve project management across the organization.
Demand Management Maturity
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for demand management maturity. By definition, this is an enterprise, rather than a project level, pursuit.
Demand management maturity has to do with how an organization discovers business needs across the enterprise, defines those needs, ranks and prioritizes them, and then allocates resources to the projects that will deliver capabilities to meet them.
This function is broken if, for example, line of business VPs routinely dial up friends in IT to get work done under the radar or IT application owners work one on one with individual business stakeholders to deliver solutions regardless of whether the solution is the right one (or whether a redundant solution is being delivered elsewhere in the organization).
Suboptimal demand management directly impacts information management.
Information management focuses on delivering capabilities to meet business needs (at least it should). If your organization’s approach to managing demand is broken, you'll face difficulties getting information management initiatives on the enterprise project roadmap and the adequate resource to deliver them effectively.
Although information management is about delivering business value, a significant portion of that value is defensive — protecting the organization from fines and sanctions and other costs associated with compliance violations. So if an organization is immature in how it manages its compliance function, information management will be much more difficult to get right.
For example, at many organizations with immature compliance functions, you’ll find an inconsistent approach to policies, procedures and guidelines. Policies have procedural level directions mixed in, procedures have “click here, click there” guidance specific to applications and systems, and guidelines have policy statements in them.
Adding to the confusion is vague ownership of policy, procedure and guideline creation and approval, sometimes with multiple policies, procedures or guidelines seemingly in force at the same time — with no clarity on which is the definitive one.
In this kind of a compliance environment, making progress with information management, which requires a good deal of compliance work, will be very difficult.
Leaving aside philosophical discussions about how you can’t have a bad relationship between IT and “the business” because IT is a part of “the business” (*groan*), suffice it to say that IT and the business have a less than stellar relationship at many, many organizations.
Some of the problems, especially demand management, stem from this poor relationship, but other problems result from this poor relationship as well, such as failure to understand business needs/drivers, failure to deliver business value, mistrust and lack of confidence, shadow IT and point solutions (especially SaaS or cloud products purchased directly from the vendor by the business unit).
As with compliance maturity, technology capabilities play a significant part in getting information management right.
So if IT struggles to deliver capabilities to the business or show value, and if the business routinely works around IT to get results, then information management —whether driven by IT or the business — will struggle to be effective.
Choose the Better Odds
Getting information management right is hard enough without trying to solve larger organizational issues like project management, demand management or compliance maturity. And I’m certainly not advocating that you try to solve these (or other organizational issues) as a part of your information management efforts.
But if you're looking to succeed, you need to be aware of these issues, honest of their likely impact on your efforts, and find ways to mitigate or work around them. If you don’t, you’ll likely find yourself working harder or making less progress (or both) than you imagined. If you do, you'll still struggle with information management, but at least you’ll have given yourself the best odds of success.