The Four Pillars of a Sound Information Strategy

What follows are the roles I deem important for the organization and that are most often missing:

Information strategist: This person provides the strategic direction of the enterprise for the information asset. They work with CIO and other high-level business execs in understanding the information goals of the enterprise and will create strategies and the subsequent techniques for achieving those goals. He or she would be my equivalent of “Information Czar” within the organization.

Information steward: This person is the enterprise’s information specialist from the standpoint of a vertical such as finance, product, customer, or vendor. He or she not only knows the vertical very well (including ways of doing business, processes, and non-technical methodologies), but also knows the systems and the associated atomic information within the systems. An information steward will be a liaison between IT and business in all areas related to information needs of a specific vertical.

Information architect: This person is tasked with maintaining the enterprise model. They constantly work with application-level DBAs in design of a new/modified application and ensures that redundancies in information are minimized and that information flows within the organization smoothly. Their charter is to encourage the information-on-demand approach and to minimize the copying of the information.

Metadata specialist: This person is responsible for capturing, maintaining, and distributing enterprise level Meta models. He or she is in constant dialogue with application-level DBAs and information stewards in capturing new and changed metadata. Often this role ventures out into identifying internal and external taxonomy and ontology associated with the organization’s applications.

Information quality specialist: This person provides best practices, pitfalls, and direction for the information quality at the enterprise. She or he works closely with information stewards to capture each vertical’s information quality needs and creates checkpoints and routines to constantly monitor the quality level of the information across the enterprise.

Please note that this person is not software quality assurance specialist. Their specialty is information management; focusing on information quality—an action that is missing across most organizations.

Information security specialist: This person creates and provides best-practices, pitfalls, and direction for information governance and security. They are a member of both information management and IT security teams and work with the CIO and the business units to translate their governance and security requirements into actionable tasks.

Pillar No.4: Identify Focus Areas

The last, but certainly not the least, pillar in this strategy is to identify the areas the organization needs to focus on from the standpoint of information management.

The strategy should include these areas, their business priority, and the plan of approach for each. The focus areas should include master data management (MDM), data integration, information quality, business intelligence (BI), enterprise content management (ECM), knowledge management (KM), and competitive intelligence (CI) [Please see my January article on this topic.]

As you noticed, I consider the above to be enterprise-level efforts focused on delivery of maximum benefits to the organization by reducing costs and redundancies. Each of the above focus areas sit at a level higher than the typical stove-pipe application and will allow the creation of systems that would benefit various applications and business units.

In conclusion, I’d like to point out that, like any other strategy, an information strategy is a living document. It needs to be reviewed quarterly, measured against, and modified if necessary. Otherwise, it will be a good document on your shelf gathering dust.

Majid Abai is president and CEO of Seena Technologies, an enterprise information management and architecture consulting firm. Majid co-authored Data Strategy (Addison-Wesley, 2005) and teaches classes in Business Intelligence and Enterprise Data Architecture at UCLA.