Information management

Information management (IM), as it’s normally understood, is really about the management of information technology, or perhaps data management and software tools. Similarly, the chief information officer (CIO) role isn’t really about information either; it’s about technology.

Although, when the role was first created following the 1977 report of the U.S. Commission on Federal Paperwork (chaired by Forest W. Horton and otherwise known as the Horton Report), it really was about the management of information as a strategic resource, rather than the technology management role it later morphed into.

What I want to look at here is a much wider understanding of information and a much broader concept of information management, what I’ll call authentic information management (AIM). Let’s consider Pareto’s 80/20 principle which states that, for many events, roughly 80 per cent of the effects come from 20 per cent of the causes so it wouldn’t be too surprising if just 20 per cent of all information in organisations is actually useful.

The rest is useless or less than useful. If true, that’s a huge waste of resources and a big drag on efficiency. Not only that, but the less-than-useful stuff is blocking out the useful, and this has big implications for overall, systemic effectiveness – not to mention people effectiveness.

For example, back in 1955, the British chain department store Marks and Spencer (M&S), undertook a famous information reduction exercise called Operation Simplification in response to rising overhead costs and falling profits. The well-documented end result was reported to have been an 80 per cent reduction in paperwork!

But the reduction in paperwork didn’t just convert into cost savings. It was also reported at the time that there was evidence everywhere of a hidden treasure of ability and creativity that had been unlocked.An authentic CIO
So how much effort, time and resource is spent on data management compared with information itself? The former is easier to get your head around because it’s specific, it’s tangible, and there are software tools for it. Of course effective data management is vital, particularly for data quality, because it supports information reliability.

But it may be that authentic information management (AIM) is the next frontier in making effective use not only of information and communications technology (ICT) in organisations, but also of information itself and as a whole.

So how do you go about enabling AIM?
The first thing might be the appointment of an authentic CIO, meaning that they will have overall responsibility for promoting the effective use of all information in the organisation as a strategic resource, with the present CIO re-named the chief systems officer (CSO) responsible for the overall management of information systems and business processes.