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Information as an asset
von Kåre Friestad, Senior consultant, CDIA+
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Kåre Friestad is CDIA+ trainer and member of the team of consultants of PROJECT CONSULT since 2005.
Value of information
Bill Gates wrote in his book “Business @The Speed of Thought”: “The most meaningful way to differentiate your company from your competition is to do an outstanding job with information. How you gather, manage, and use information will determine whether you will win or lose”.
The ongoing information explosion and media proliferation will provide new opportunities for differentiation by the way of management of information. However all businesses and public service organizations need to manage information like any other asset and address information policy as a top management issue. As a starting point policy should be defined for management of information to comply with government and industry regulations.
The “information age” is in the past, we are now in the information overload age. In 2010, Europe will produce between 3 and 6 times the information volume we did in 2006. Surveys vary, but even the lower forecast represents a formidable challenge. IT has with support of substantial lower cost of storage, being able to manage the situation. Resonantly introduced deduplication and fingerprinting technologies (making sure only one copy exists) is also reducing the growth. But at the same time the real issues of making effective use of information and the compliance and security aspects has been camouflaged. Accenture surveyed back in 2006 1,000 middle managers of large companies in the United States and United Kingdom and found:
• Managers send up to 25 percent of their time, searching for information.
• 59 percent said that as a consequence of poor information distribution, they miss information that might be valuable to their jobs almost every day.
• 42 percent of respondents said they accidentally use the wrong information at least once a week.
• 53 percent said that less than half of the information they receive is valuable.
• 45 percent of respondents said gathering information about what other parts of their company are doing is a big challenge.
• 36 percent said there is so much information available that it takes a long time to actually find the right piece of data.
There is no reason to believe that the situation is significantly different in most countries. New media, collaboration tools and Web 2.0 technologies are in addition creating new issues for management of the information and especially in the area of security, information governance and compliance. Organizations need to define policies and governance procedures for the use of media. Most organizations are still struggling with being able to handle and manage e-mails as any other document. How is the use of collaboration tools and social media going to affect the situation? Without action the situation will become worse.
Asset management
OECD defines assets management as:
“A systematic process of effectively maintaining, upgrading and operating assets, combining engineering principles with sound business practice and economic rationale, and providing the tools to facilitate a more organized and flexible approach to making decisions necessary to achieve the public’s expectations.”
For management of “traditional” assets the steps involved include:
• Identification of need for the asset, in the light of community requirements
• Provision of the asset, including its ongoing maintenance and rehabilitation to suit continuing needs
• Operation of the asset
• Disposal of the asset when the need no longer exists or it is no longer appropriate for the asset to be retained.
Information does not appear on the balance sheet with a value, but the basic principles of asset management still apply to management of information and the “information capital” should receive as much focus as financial and human capital.
The financial community knows the importance of ongoing maintenance, rehabilitation and disposal of the asset, but in the world of information we leave it all to IT with no policy for how to manage the life cycle from an information value and governance perspective.
Policy management
In the world of information management effective management requires well defined policies.
An old saying is “garbage in – garbage out”. Policies must exist for what information needs to be retained, for how long, by whom, for how long and how to dispose of the information.
Policy for categorization must cater for the “provisioning” of the information and reflect the time value of the information. Most information has a short value cycle and should be disposed of as soon as the information has lost its value. Instead totally useless information is supporting the storage manufactures business and increasing operational cost for IT.
Security and governance policies are required for effective operation and adherence to compliance requirements.
Competence and commitment
Definition of information management policies and solution requirements need attention and commitment from top management. ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) has gained with acceptance as a set of concepts and policies for management of IT infrastructure, development and operations, but is not addressing the alignment of business and IT. The CobiT (Control Objectives for Information and related Technology) framework developed to support Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission’s (COSO’s) Internal Control framework has procedures to align business and IT and address the strategic value of IT. Information governance is well managed within CobiT, but the information value lifecycle aspect needs to be address as a project in addition to what is covered within CobiT.
Implementation of “information as an asset” is best done by a cross departmental team with multi discipline competence from IT, Legal, Process specialists, Quality and Records Management specialists. CobiT procedures is a good starting point, but information lifecycle value aspects needs to be aligned and disposal procedures defined. Top management needs to be fully involved and secure that the necessary expertise and resources are assigned.
Information asset
Management of information as valuable assets in support of business needs will assure information is:
• Appropriate—The right information.
• Timely—Available when required.
• Current—The latest available.
• Accurate—Correct data.
• Accessible—Access to it as needed
• Authentic—undisputed credibility
• Auditable—ensure compliance with established policy
• Disposed—ensure that only valuable information is managed
Combined with effective process management the possible impact on both efficiency and governance is substantial, and any organization not looking carefully at information management issues will seriously be impacted by the information explosion. (KFr)


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