The weakest link
There is a potential and costly weakness in your information value chain. While you have spent fortunes on specifying and realizing information systems, if they aren’t used properly, then the value that you envisaged and on which you based your business case, simply isn’t realized. In addition to this, poor understanding of increasingly complex information leads to equally poor decision-making, leading in turn to costly mistakes. To make things even worse, recent research has identified an average productivity loss varying from 3.1% to 4.1% of working hours due to inadequate user skills.
IT Manufacturing versus IT Retail
Many of us in IT often think in terms of demand and supply of IT services. The inevitable commoditization of technology is forcing traditional IT departments to shift their focus from delivering to demand-based specifications (‘IT Manufacturing’), to selecting readily available supply-based commercial offerings that fulfill business needs (‘IT Retail’). Considerable investment in reskilling and repositioning is needed to prevent the IT department being blamed for ‘rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic’ while business executives bypass the IT department and deal directly with external service providers.
Users left to their own devices
But the shift from IT Manufacturing to IT Retail is only half the story. Difficult as this is, this reskilling and repositioning of the IT department ‘only’ ensures that the business gets the information systems that it needs. Not whether they are used effectively and efficiently. There is increasing awareness that the demand-supply paradigm needs to be expanded to address the actual use of information and related technology. With the ‘democratization’ of devices (BYOD), applications (easy to download apps) and data (in particular readily accessible Big Data from external sources), it is easy to leave the users to their own devices and hope that they use them well enough. If information isn’t that important for your organization, then you can take the risk. But if information is one of your important business assets, you need to manage it appropriately.
Expanding the demand-supply paradigm and thinking in terms of demand-supply-use closes the circle and helps you to assess and improve the effectiveness of the whole information value chain. ‘Information management’ addresses demand and use of information and related technology. It is an enterprise responsibility that focuses on exploiting optimal value from information. Although information and technology are intimately intertwined, they are two separate entities that need to be managed in their own right. Information management and IT management are two separate disciplines with different dynamics. IT is managed by the IT department, information by the business.
Guidance for information management can be found in frameworks such as COBIT® andBiSL®. COBIT 5 guides enterprises in rigorous governance and management of processes and other enablers related to demand, supply and use of information and technology. It provides excellent guidance for assurance of benefits realization, risk optimization and resource optimization. Because BiSL provides more detailed guidance regarding the content of the processes for demand and use of information and technology, COBIT 5 and BiSL are regarded as complementary frameworks.