Portals eNewsletters Web Seminars dataWarehouse.com DM Review Magazine
DM Review | Covering Business Intelligence, Integration & Analytics
   Covering Business Intelligence, Integration & Analytics Advanced Search

View all Portals

Scheduled Events

White Paper Library
Research Papers

View Job Listings
Post a job


DM Review Home
Current Magazine Issue
Magazine Archives
Online Columnists
Ask the Experts
Industry News
Search DM Review

Buyer's Guide
Industry Events Calendar
Monthly Product Guides
Software Demo Lab
Vendor Listings

About Us
Press Releases
Advertising/Media Kit
Magazine Subscriptions
Editorial Calendar
Contact Us
Customer Service

BI Strategy:
Critical Questions to Answer When Developing an Enterprise Information Management Strategy

online columnist Rich Cohen     Column published in DMReview.com
December 8, 2005
  By Rich Cohen

Information management (IM) is a critical function in any company. The information residing in your company's information systems is a corporate asset. Accordingly, it must be managed effectively to provide maximum value. What's more, how effectively you manage your company's information will largely be determined by what kind of IM strategy you develop.

However, despite the criticality of the IM function, IM is often a vaguely defined concept, at best. So I think it's a good idea to start with a clear definition. My definition of IM: the utilization of hardware, software, people and processes to gather, store, organize and deliver enterprise information with the twin goals of providing required information to knowledge workers and facilitating management analysis and decision making.

Now that we have a working definition of IM, it is time to talk IM strategy. I'm not going to lay out a blueprint for an IM strategy - at least not in this column. What I would like to do, however, is to propose a set of six questions to answer as you formulate your enterprise IM strategy. The answers to these questions will be different for every company and will largely depend on where your company is in the IM maturity lifecycle. Also, as you read and respond to these questions, other questions will almost certainly arise. As those questions arise, I think you'll find that the more questions you ask and answer, the more straightforward your IM strategy development will be. So, let's get started.

Question #1: Have we clearly defined and communicated expectations for information management, analysis and reporting to the company? It is crucial to define these expectations at the enterprise level and to develop a consensus regarding realistic enterprise information delivery and reporting. Initially, there will likely be conflicts between the requirements for information timeliness, accuracy, granularity and availability. Consequently, you'll have to make trade-offs between these requirements. The key is to define your needs clearly and to communicate expectations regarding what is realistic.

It's also important to emphasize the need to quickly deploy a strategy that meets the most critical needs first, rather than designing an IM utopia over many years. Your strategy will be a work in progress, and you'll obviously still need to address any issues as they arise. What you won't have to do, however, is spend years spinning your wheels with no strategy.

Question #2: Do we have the correct people and processes in place? While reporting challenges that result from disparate ERP systems and multiple business units can certainly hamper the development of an IM strategy, the people and processes involved in ongoing information governance and stewardship will ultimately determine its ability to achieve the desired results and to deliver value.

With this in mind, it's important to identify the required stakeholders early in the strategy development process and to gain a thorough understanding of their information needs. It's also critical to understand the importance of formal processes for stewardship and governance. Stewardship and governance processes should be defined and instituted at the outset of any IM strategy-development initiative. That way, you'll have a solid underpinning on which to build your strategy.

Question #3: Do we understand information management from the identified stakeholders' perspective? This is a direct corollary to the second question. It's certainly important to define stakeholders and their information needs, but you must go further. You'll actually have to look at information needs from their points of view.

Obviously, your strategy will consider needs of business functions and departments, but people make up those functions and departments. So, it is absolutely essential to understand the points of view of the people within the company that will use information to make decisions and develop your IM strategy from their standpoints.

Question #4: Have we clearly defined the business questions that each stakeholder must answer to manage the business? Once you understand the point of view and needs of your stakeholders, it is essential to go further and ask stakeholders which business questions they need answered. This will enable you to focus on developing a lean, precisely defined IM strategy that will truly meet your information needs without overly burdening the company with cumbersome processes and rules.

Question #5: Do we have the required information to help enable accurate, flexible decision making? This question arises from the answers you give to question four, and it is really an issue of actionable information versus simple data. Managers are inundated with data. What they really need is data that is organized or distilled into information they can use to make timely, informed business decisions. The key to developing an effective IM strategy is to define this information. This process will also enable you to develop information delivery mechanisms and facilitate better decision making.

Question #6: Is there a common definition of information across the company? Once you've defined the information you need to answer business questions and the information delivery mechanisms for those answers, the next step is to confirm that the information you need is defined uniformly across the company.

Often, as a result of growth through mergers and acquisitions, or the development of homegrown departmental or functional information systems, data definitions have diverged. For example, the definition of "customer" may not be the same in every division or information system. Calculations of basic performance metrics may be different as well.

However, if you are to receive a single "version of the truth" about the questions you ask, data definitions and methods of calculation should be uniform across the company. This can be accomplished by implementing data quality and/or master data management initiatives. Regardless of how you choose to accomplish this definitional uniformity, though, it must be done.

As you answer these questions, more questions will certainly arise. The more, the better - because every question you ask and answer will help you gain a better understanding of your IT environment, your information needs and ways to address those needs. As your understanding grows, you should be able to define your IM strategy more precisely. As a result, the strategy should be more effective, allowing you to better manage and grow your business.


For more information on related topics visit the following related portals...
Data Management, Enterprise Information Management and Strategic Intelligence.

Rich Cohen is a principal in Deloitte Consulting LLP's Information Dynamics practice where he is responsible for the strategy, development and implementation of data governance, data warehousing, decision support and data mining engagements to support the emergence of world-class business intelligence applications. Cohen has more than 27 years of experience in the design, development, implementation and support of information technology in a variety of industries. Over the last 18 years, he has had extensive experience in the creation of technology strategies, implementations and deployment of CRM and business intelligence solutions to drive improved business performance.

Solutions Marketplace
Provided by IndustryBrains

Data Validation Tools: FREE Trial
Protect against fraud, waste and excess marketing costs by cleaning your customer database of inaccurate, incomplete or undeliverable addresses. Add on phone check, name parsing and geo-coding as needed. FREE trial of Data Quality dev tools here.

Recover SQL Server or Exchange in minutes
FREE WHITE PAPER. Recover SQL Server, Exchange or NTFS data within minutes with TimeSpring?s continuous data protection (CDP) software. No protection gaps, no scheduling requirements, no backup related slowdowns and no backup windows to manage.

Manage Data Center from Virtually Anywhere!
Learn how SecureLinx remote IT management products can quickly and easily give you the ability to securely manage data center equipment (servers, switches, routers, telecom equipment) from anywhere, at any time... even if the network is down.

Design Databases with ER/Studio: Free Trial
ER/Studio delivers next-generation data modeling. Multiple, distinct physical models based on a single logical model give you the tools you need to manage complex database environments and critical metadata in an intuitive user interface.

Free EII Buyer's Guide
Understand EII - Trends. Tech. Apps. Calculate ROI. Download Now.

Click here to advertise in this space

E-mail This Column E-Mail This Column
Printer Friendly Version Printer-Friendly Version
Related Content Related Content
Request Reprints Request Reprints
Site Map Terms of Use Privacy Policy
SourceMedia (c) 2006 DM Review and SourceMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.
SourceMedia is an Investcorp company.
Use, duplication, or sale of this service, or data contained herein, is strictly prohibited.