Companies across the globe are struggling to survive the latest economic downturn. Those companies and organizations that are best positioned to not only survive but strive in this economy are those that are most aware of their information assets and can proactively affect change by quickly adjusting their operations based on changes in market conditions.
Implementing an enterprise information management (EIM) program is no longer seen as a program to undertake when the funds are available, but rather it is a core part of business that is required to maintain a healthy revenue stream. Companies that choose to undertake such a program and do so correctly will make an impact and become an industry role model.
So what is an EIM program and why is it so important? Simply put, an EIM program transforms the vast amount of information collected every day into a strategic advantage. This enables a company to provide accurate, consistent information to all of its resources (employees, computer databases, contractors, vendors, partners, etc.), allowing them to perform their jobs more effectively.
This is accomplished by addressing how the company manages its information assets. If implemented correctly, companies and organizations can create an environment in which both the business group and technology group strive to collectively make the best decisions for the company: Business drives the requirements and then technology supports the business by providing the tools and applications necessary to make the program and, therefore, the company successful.
Where to begin?
Executing an EIM program is hard work and has many components. Companies usually struggle with when to start, which focus areas to start with and how to get the initiative executed well from the onset. To wit, companies, regardless of size, should begin by developing an awareness of how such a program can benefit them and an understanding of the purposes and objectives of such initiatives.
Educating and planning are the most important steps in implementing such a program. Company executives should seek to join other organizations in collaborative discussions, encourage key employees to attend conferences and read literature to become more informed on the components of the EIM program which will help in developing the implementation strategy unique to the organization.
The six key activities that should be completed early during the program start up include:
1. Conduct a periodic assessment starting with a baseline current state assessment;
2. Understand where you want to go and how long it will take by preparing a maturity assessment and roadmap;
3. Involve key EIM stakeholders in strategic discussions and align the program goal with strategic initiatives;
4. Build awareness of the EIM programs on all levels;
5. Gain an understanding of resource needs and specifically the interaction model of third party resources; and
6. Determine the standards for measuring success of the program.
Conduct a periodic assessment – It is tough to know if you are on the correct course of action if you do not know where you are. Conducting a periodic assessment allows companies to measure performance and affect change to keep the program aligned with strategic objectives. No assessment is more important than the first assessment, the current state assessment.
Many companies shy away from completing this activity because they perceive themselves as knowing all of the challenges and differentiators that make their company unique. For the most part, this is a true statement. There are, however, at least three major reasons to conduct this activity:
First, everyone has their own perspective of what is going right and what could be improved. Meeting with different stakeholders allows the company to understand different perspectives to form the perceived state of the company. More importantly, the assessment allows the EIM program management group to better assess alignment between different parts of the organization so that it can determine the best strategy for affecting positive change in the organization.
Second, an assessment should be able to identify formal and informal processes that manage information assets. This allows the EIM program management team to understand and prioritize projects for improvement that will provide the quickest and largest ROI. This part of the assessment also can lead to minimize risk by reducing the amount of change necessary to implement the program successfully.
Third, the assessment allows the EIM program management team to develop an effective communication plan and drives key standards of clear definitions (i.e., How do we define customer? Who is ultimately responsible for customer data? … Billing? Sales?, etc.).
Prepare a maturity assessment and roadmap – The EIM current state assessment should leverage an industry standard measurement system to identify and track the progress of the company’s maturity. Metrics can be derived from the model as the company seeks to move to more mature positions in areas identified as being most critical for improving business operations.
Two components should be considered prior to conducting the assessment:
First, participants should be educated on the categories of the assessment.
Second, participants should understand the measurement system for identifying the maturity in each of the categories. Leveraging an industry standard measurement system, like Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI), provides a consistent measurement for the maturity of the company in each category over time.
Develop the EIM program strategy – The current state assessment combined with the corporate, business, and IT strategies provide input into the EIM program strategy. The company’s vision, mission, and value statements should be clearly understood and articulated as well as the business strategy and supporting technology strategy. If it is not, I highly recommended a third party be leveraged to help develop these components. This is important because building an EIM program is not a project-based initiative.
A program typically has many projects. For EIM, even this is a slight misnomer. Over time, the EIM program will become a formal structure, as part of the CIO organization or newly created chief data officer (CDO) organization.
Build awareness of the EIM program – Building awareness should not be underestimated. Understanding the state of awareness of your constituents/stakeholders will help assess the level of education that is required. Awareness of the EIM programs begins early in the program development. Executive awareness sessions may need to be developed as the team is establishing leadership alignment. Specific awareness sessions may also need to be developed for the project management team members, stewards, end users, and other people performing the roles identified in the EIM framework.
Determine third-party support requirements – Determining the right mix of resources (insourced or outsourced) is essential in maximizing the return on human resource investment. Ideally, companies aspire to have all of its resources working at maximum capacity. The best return on human resources is by supporting them in working smarter, not harder. Increasing the efficiency of the workforce generally leads to a more productive and less stressful environment. Understanding how best to capitalize upon the various types of human resources available to the company helps strengthen the company by enhancing internal resources with the core competencies required to operate while leveraging external resources for temporary, short term, or non-core activities.
Define evaluation criteria – Beginning with the end in mind is always a good practice of successful programs. One of the most important tasks during the start up phase of an EIM program is understanding how best to measure the program’s success.
Evaluation and feedback techniques should be utilized to continuously evaluate the effects of the EIM program from four aspects: program management, business, governance, and IT. Essentially, preparing a schedule for periodic reviews of the metrics helps the company increase its maturity to the desired state in an efficient manner.
Information can be found in any business transaction today. The larger the company, the more information is available that can be harnessed to improve shareholder value. Implementing an EIM program is no longer reserved for large companies. Companies of all sizes will require a technical infrastructure that provides the information required to make strategic business decisions that will make an organization thrive if implemented correctly.
Implementing these six steps combined with becoming actively involved in collaboration and building knowledge in this space can only help executives and their companies flourish regardless of the economic environment. Those companies that understand how to best harness their information and manage it effectively are the ones that will continue to keep a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
Stephen Boschulte, a senior information management strategist who typically works at large consulting organizations, based his research on over 12 years experience working at over 20 Fortune 500 companies and small organizations. He is also the author of A Practical Guide for Implementing an EIM Program and can be reached at [email protected].