Connecting the IM-Business Dots
I have found that there is a disconnect between how we use information and how information management professionals talk about information to our clients, the users. This disconnect means that IM is not delivering the services that clients actually need. The key to aligning real-world information use with real-world information practice is ENGAGEMENT. By incorporating engagement – asking real users – we can do better IM. Let me show you:
How we really use information today
- Searching – I find myself regularly using the search engine to locate a certain file, rather than the folder structure or system tools (i.e. favourites). In the age of Google, we all expect enterprise search capabilities and excellent matching algorithms.
- Collaboration – We all know that we work collaboratively in teams these days and the pace is much faster. Information needs to be accessible by many people in many different places without much effort expended locating or sharing it.
- Pressure of deadlines – We have no time to recreate information or to track down a colleague to get the information we need. I’d rather spend time enjoying the sunny days than do overtime to put together my briefing note and meet the deadline. Information must be available when we need it.
To give you an example, when I worked as a policy analyst for the provincial government, I lost count of how many times I placed a request for numbers to brief my ADM on the status of my portfolio and heard crickets! I had a deadline and it felt like no one else cared. In reality, my stats colleagues also had their own set of pressures to deal with. I often imagined a world where I could find those numbers on my own… what is missing? Why can’t we do that now?
How we talk about information from an IM standpoint
The above scenario is just an excerpt from a regular day for our operational business colleagues. Many times, when we talk about information management, we talk in very broad terms. We might say… IM is essential to find, store, reuse information… or… we need to safely retain and destroy information at the end of its lifecycle… or… we need to protect/safeguard information. These are all noble statements, but where is the pragmatic connection with those who actually CREATE, USE, REUSE, COLLABORATE, SEARCH information? How do we understand their challenges, pain points, and needs? How can we support our colleagues in overcoming their operational challenges?
The Future: Aligning IM with Business
Let me just throw this idea out there: ENGAGEMENT.
Talk to your business peers to ask WHAT they do and HOW they do it. Go through your organization to identify allies, and those who care about their work. Take the time to listen, even if not much happens with the information you collect and even if little improvement comes from it immediately. The knowledge gained about your organization will be a gold mine for any IM initiative developed to support your organization.
Recently, I have been helping clients create their ‘file plan’ – a traditional IM project. I do not approach my clients with compliance threats and added burden to their jobs; I bring my business brain to engagement meetings. During our engagement meetings, we don’t talk about the file plan or any other esoteric IM jargon. I come equipped with some basic information about their activities, goals, mandate, and a set of guiding questions about what they do. By doing this, I can have a meaningful conversation about their business with the client. Despite all of my documentation review and preparation, I do not know all the business processes of my client until I speak to them in person. We have to stop assuming that we know what our clients do from reading pieces of paper – we have to go out and talk to them! In this scenario, clients do not see the connection between our discussion and a file plan until I present the business architecture on which the file plan is based. It is at this point that they begin to understand the connections between the success of their business and IM as an enabler.
The ability to speak the business language is the skill of the future for anything involving information (i.e. think digital!) and it is what connects the IM-business dots!
Andrezza Falk has a Master’s in Public Administration from Queen’s University and has been involved in high profile projects at the provincial and federal levels of government for over 10 years. Andrezza is enthusiastic in working together with clients to create the best solution for their own context. As a senior consultant with Systemscope, Andrezza’s expertise involve business transformation, business strategy, and information governance.