Organizations mulling the launch of a formal enterprise information management (EIM) program had better make sure they clearly understand the reasons for doing so, according to Sheila E. Jeffrey, a vice president and senior information architect with Bank of America.
That's because a precise understanding of the driving forces behind EIM will shape just about everything else about the program, including its scope, the resources that will be required to make it work and the management style that should be employed, explained Jeffrey, who spoke last week at the Enterprise Data World conference in Atlanta.
Organizations with established programs should also remember to frequently reassess the drivers behind EIM, Jeffrey added, because objectives change over time, and the scope of the program will likely need to change with them.
And while the word enterprise may conjure images of a company's many business units working together, it's important to remember that EIM programs should start small and gradually expand, Jeffrey said. The scope of the project should be one of the first things discussed.
"Is it really enterprise? Is it divisional? Or is it some combination of lines of business or groups with common concerns," she said.
Mark Ouska, an enterprise architect with retail giant Target and attendee at the conference, can attest to the fact that EIM programs can grow to eventually encompass many divisions in an organization.
"The environment that we have is pretty complex, and information management is built across different areas," he said. "We have some business components that look at data from a business consumption standpoint and [we have a group] that is standing up governance and metadata data quality management as the foundation for master data management initiatives that are starting to go forward."
The EIM mandate matters
Oftentimes, Jeffrey explained, EIM programs are set up in response to one or more pressing concerns or problems.
But simply understanding the problems that call for EIM isn't enough to ensure success. Organizations also need to know precisely how those problems will affect the mandate of the EIM initiative. For example, if an organization is looking to solve the problem of an overly costly or complex data infrastructure, the focus for the EIM program should be on increasing the efficiency operational data management.
If an organization can't find or properly use its data, the EIM mandate should focus on metadata capture for data integration, according to Jeffrey. If the company is having a problem with inconsistent reporting results, the program should focus on consolidated analytics.
If data is deemed untrustworthy, then the EIM program should focus on data governance. And if the organization is having trouble managing business change, maybe it's time to increase the transparency of information throughout the organization.
EIM objectives, resources
Organizations may be tempted to set many goals when determining the initial scope of an EIM program. But resources may be tight -- especially when getting started -- according to Jeffrey. That's why it's a good idea to begin by focusing on one or two of the most pressing problems and allocating resources accordingly. And those resources tend to fall into four main categories, including people, technology, process and metrics.
For example, an EIM program focused on data governance would require staffing resources like program managers, business people and IT representatives; technical resources like workflow support and information repositories; a process to help resolve the issues that arise between groups trying to find common ground on data governance standards; and metrics for compliance tracking.
Alternatively, a project focused on improved analytics would require business analysts; data warehousing software and BI tools; clearly defined business requirements and report design; and metrics to track return on investment.
If a prime objective is to consolidate and improve analytics capabilities, then the EIM group would need to recruit some business analysts. Technology required might include data warehousing software and business intelligence tools.
The "process" aspect would involve getting business requirements, coming up with a final design for the system and designing reports. And to measure the success of the program, the EIM group might want to develop a way to measure how improved analytics have contributed to reduced costs or increased revenue.
Management style choices
Once a company has set its EIM objectives and prioritized them properly, it needs to think about the overall approach to managing the program.
According to Jeffrey, there are several questions that organization should ask of themselves at this point, including: How are financial results reported? How is the technology environment provisioned? Are common methodologies shared across groups? Is there a consolidated portfolio of IT projects? How interdependent are business processes throughout the enterprise?
The answers to those questions will help determine whether the program should have a centralized, decentralized, collaborative or cloned management structure, where the same approaches are used repeatedly in all business units.
"The more closely aligned the constituents are," Jeffrey wrote in her conference slides, "the easier it will be to implement a common approach and set of functions."