Information Management Isn’t the Problem

A version of this post appeared on CMSWire.

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. Among these factors are the following:

  • Project Management Maturity: How well does the organization manage projects?
  • 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?
  • IT-Business Relations: How healthy/unhealthy is the relationship between IT and the wider organization?

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 brainer; 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 if IT application owners work one-on-one with individual business stakeholders to deliver solutions, irrespective of whether the solution is the right one (or whether a redundant solution is being delivered somewhere else within 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 in getting the resources to deliver them effectively.

Compliance Maturity

Although information management is about delivering business value, a significant portion of that value is defensive: i.e. concerned with 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 compliance environment, making progress with information management, which requires a good deal of compliance work, will be very difficult.

IT-Business Relations

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 so do a number of other significant problems, such as failure to understand business needs/drivers, failure to deliver business value, mistrust and lack of confidence, and “shadow” IT and point solutions (especially SaaS or cloud products purchased directly from the vendor by one or another of the business units).

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 to demonstrate 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 and honest about their likely impact on your efforts, and you need to 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 improved your odds of success.


Rich Medina
Joe Shepley
I’m VP and Practice Lead, focusing on developing Doculabs’ InfoSec practice and its applications in a wide range of industries.