Emerging Governance Structures for Tackling Information Management

Laying the Structure for a Strategic Core Competency in Information Management

November 13, 2003

Today’s organizations, workers, and customers are mired in information overload. Information management is looming as a necessary strategic core competence for organizations in the 21st century. In order to retool your organization, you’ll need information management governance, policies, standards, processes, and guidelines. In this report, we outline some emerging practices in information management governance.


Information management is becoming a strategic core competency for the 21st century. Most organizations have outdated or piecemeal information management structures, policies, and practices. We predict that, over the next five years, organizations around the world will be retooling the way they deal with information.

We’ve been researching emerging practices in information management for several months. While there’s still much more research ahead of us, we felt it was time to offer some early observations of emerging patterns and practices in governance, the top level component of our framework for information management.

The bottom line: information mismanagement is costly. External and internal stakeholders expect to be able to easily access and to re-use accurate, up-to-date, and trustworthy information. Whether or not information seekers can find the right information--the precise information required in context--is heavily dependent on whether or not that information has been well-managed and properly documented. Most organizations have not instituted policies, governance, and practices that enable them to meet today’s information quality standards.


Information--once a scarce and cherished resource--has become an impediment to getting things done. We’re all drowning in a molasses-like sea of email (exacerbated by Spam!), electronic documents, spreadsheets, application data, reports, Web sites, and portals; not to mention voicemails, meetings, faxes, radio broadcasts, TV shows, books, magazines, newspapers, and movies. There’s too much information in all of our lives and in our businesses. It’s not well-organized. And most of it is irrelevant. So we can’t quickly find what we need when we need it. Information is degenerating into noise. No wonder that business people are now resorting to instant messaging to cut through the crap. (“You’re there! Can we talk? Do you know the answer?”)

And, yet, at the same time that many of us are succumbing to the gradual paralysis being induced by information overload, the “Google® phenomenon” is creating heightened expectations. It’s so easy to find a mind-boggling array of reasonably good information on virtually any subject out on the Internet. So why shouldn’t we be able to lay our hands on the precise information we need to do our jobs? Or to solve a problem? Or to make a decision?

This paradox is driving many people nuts. On the one hand, we have vast amounts of electronically-accessible information. On the other hand, we have lots of disorganized, redundant, irrelevant, and out-dated information, electronic and otherwise, to wade through.

Then there’s a corollary and complicating paradox. On one hand, we’re critical of “our” organization’s information. We’re skeptical about its accuracy, consistency, and quality. On the other hand, we’ll regard everything that Google delivers as authoritative, accurate, consistent, and trustworthy. We never stop to realize that it’s someone else’s information and, despite our valuing it so highly, the quality of their organization is probably driving them as crazy as ours is driving us.

WAKE-UP CALL: CUSTOMERS CAN’T FIND THE INFORMATION THEY NEED EITHER! Too much bad information is a problem that extends beyond your internal data, document, and content management systems, your intranet, and your email systems, The pattern that we see emerging is that, as companies are revealing more and more of their information via the Internet to prospects, customers, members, citizens, partners, suppliers, and other external stakeholders, that external exposure often reveals embarrassing inconsistencies, inaccuracies, and duplication of information.

If information imprecision and information overload only impacted employees, many organizations would put up with the resulting productivity loss that stems from wading through reams of information, writing off that lost productivity as a cost of doing business in the information age. But, when customers can’t find the information they need, or when your Web site gives them two different answers to the same question, customer-centric executives must start to pay attention. All of a sudden, information management becomes a large blip on the radar.

URGENCY FROM REGULATORY PRESSURES. The information overload and poor quality radar blip looms even larger as executives realize that they’re about to run aground, or at least afoul, of the law. There are now consequences to not having formal information management processes in place and not adhering to those policies. Privacy legislation is impacting many industries and requiring organizations to ...

Sign in to download the full article


Be the first one to comment.

You must be a member to comment. Sign in or create a free account.