camera broken down in parts
When it comes to your information strategy, the sum is greater than all the parts PHOTO: Vadim Sherbakov

Information is one of the most important business assets, yet organizations continue to struggle with growing information chaos. 

Even with continuing advances in technology, buying more tech is not solving the problem. Yes, technology is part of the solution, but to get it right, you must get your information strategy right.

Maybe you have a content strategy in place for your marketing and communications. And maybe you have a data strategy, an ECM strategy, a records strategy, a knowledge strategy and so on. But if these are not tied together by a unified information strategy, you’re doing it wrong — or at least ineffectively.

Information Chaos Is a Real Problem

The world is experiencing data growth at an exponential rate. That volume, velocity and variety problem of big data you keep hearing about? It’s real.

How organizations manage their information without a unified strategy can be described as fragmented at best. Not only does content and data get stuck in silos of disparate applications, but the various information management capabilities themselves (ECM, ERP, CRM, CX, KM, RIM, etc.) are often split up into different organizational units.

Who owns taxonomy and metadata? Who owns security across all those systems and capabilities? How are information consumers — both internal and external — supposed to keep track of where all the information goes? Is stuff in the cloud, on-premises or both?

It is no wonder that initiatives like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Business Intelligence (BI) fail so often. When your information stores are this fragmented, you can never have a complete view of your customers, your business processes or even your money.

One of the major takeaways of the Providence, R.I.-based Information Coalition’s Information Strategy 2017 research report was that “[w]ith ongoing and conflicting directives and rationales for information coming from varying information-related disciplines, now more than ever, we need information strategy to guide the way forward.”

What Is a Unified Information Strategy?

An information strategy defines what your organization plans to do with information and why. 

The strategy starts with the end in mind by building a high-level blueprint of how information should be managed to meet the mission. It should include critical success factors that can be used to demonstrate progress as information management capabilities mature.

To be a unified information strategy, it must cover all types of content, data, knowledge and records for the entire organization, for all major processes, in all formats and in every location.

This is not to say that all information should be migrated to a single enterprise repository or even a single suite of applications. We’re talking strategy here. The applications often work best in their respective lines of business. But the strategy itself needs to be unified under one umbrella of leadership. 

Stop leaving lines of business to fend for themselves for things like master data management, compliance and risk management, information assurance and cybersecurity.

Tie Information Strategy to Your Business Strategy

Good information management is vital to running any organization well. Even so, executives just don’t care about information management as a “best practice.” They want to know how a unified information strategy is going to further the organization’s mission. 

The strategy should clearly show how managing information effectively will impact their strategic initiatives. In other words, latch on to what is already important to them and add value. That often means building a solid business case that encompasses the strategy.

Information Strategy Leads to Information Architecture

The strategy blueprint and critical success factors form the basis for your enterprise information architecture. Information systems should align with the strategy. If systems and repositories do not directly align, it is time to rethink their lifespan. 

This alignment focus also guides the acquisition of new systems and why (and how) to connect the various information systems for better process efficiency and user experience.

Strategy and Architecture Lead to Information Governance

With a unified information strategy and a guiding information architecture, you have the requirements you need to plan effective information governance. 

The whole point of information governance should be to ensure that information processes, systems and assets serve the overall business strategy while mitigating information risks. This includes securing sensitive or classified information, protecting privacy and defending against data loss.

How to Get Started with Information Strategy

Start by looking for corporate initiatives the information strategy should address. Leverage the goals and terminology of the organization that will get the attention, authority and funding you need. You can start with a business case and move forward from there. Your strategy will also be your guide for managing your IT portfolio.

Review and revise the strategy whenever the corporate strategy is reviewed. The unified information strategy, like the information management capabilities it drives, needs to be continuously improved.