This article is an overview of the GTEC session “From Information Management to Open Information: The New IM.” In both private and public sectors, the management of information has evolved rapidly beyond policy compliance and “things in boxes” to a transformation and business leadership issue focused on bringing information to the forefront in support of the social enterprise and business performance; in other words, making information work out loud. This new way of thinking originated primarily as a business need and, in the most successful organizations, is cultivated in partnership with the CIO.
This past six months of conversations, with hundreds of people on the future of Information Management (IM) and the role of information in a 21st century government, culminated in a session we held at GTEC on October 29. The main theme that emerged from our conversations was that current IM in the federal government narrowly identifies with the policy-driven action of putting “things in boxes.” For example, records, documents, libraries, archives and the central electronic records and documents repository of government, GCDOCS, all manage content for the sake of managing it.
IM is not currently and has rarely been recognized as an essential business function. Rather, recordkeeping is more often than not reluctantly conducted as a compliance measure using paper practices. Organizations invest minimal time and effort in IM and it has consequently suffered severe cuts over the past number of years. Several people have even gone as far as saying that the current model of IM “is dead.”
Information from the outside-in
GTEC’s theme, “Government from the Outside-In,” gave us an opportunity to share what private and public sector organizations are doing with IM and how they are managing their information assets.
With the advent of digital era networking and the rise of the internet, many of the operating principles of industrial era management are being put into question. Are paper management practices relevant? Do we need to go beyond the focus on outputs? How can we break down information silos?
Technology and the management of information can together create the supporting infrastructure for business transformation and, in collaboration with business partners, focus on leveraging the dynamic relationship between people and information.
Transformative organizations are acutely aware that information is a new multi-dimensional energy, a resource that they are committed to leveraging and letting flow as freely as possible across the supply chain and with customers, employees and suppliers. Moving away from managing information, content, knowledge and data as separate and individual entities, they capitalize on the value these collectively bring to efficiency and effectiveness. The energy of information is valued within the context of business strategy and business need. Information is not managed as an end in itself, but as a tool to deliver better business performance.
Organizations realize many benefits through shifting from a technology-first to a people/information-first focus: improved customer trust, engagement and return rates to real time information and data for business intelligence and knowledge management. Organizations make more informed decisions, experience higher degrees of employee productivity and improve supplier relationships.
In government, this translates into more satisfied employees, a more productive workplace, improved reporting for results and business intelligence. Citizens and business get access to the quality information and data they are looking for faster, put trust in an open and transparent government, and feel they have a role to play in shaping government.
Outside government, the term IM has effectively been displaced by terms like “social enterprise,” “information optimization,” “knowledge management” and “collaboration and workflow.” For obvious reasons, traditional IM is still of great importance but it is embedded in these processes as a transparent, background activity.
The progression from managing information outputs for compliance to leveraging information for business performance and transformation happens in three phases of maturity:
1. System of record with a focus on back-end technical and compliance speciality;
2. Social enterprise that values enterprise workflow, business efficiency, information and knowledge sharing, social collaboration and business intelligence; and
3. Open information as design principle of transformation and business performance.
The government of Canada’s past and current IM efforts with the Directive on Recordkeeping and GCDOCS are focused on the first area.
At the same time, there are a few departments evolving their IM efforts toward the second phase of maturity. In these cases, the focus is less on back-end compliance and technology configuration and more on the front-end issues of how work is done and connecting people across organizations. Information is leveraged in support of work efficiency and knowledge capture for reuse. Change management, client engagement, usability and the information experience are critical factors of success.
As business and information maturity rises, organizations adopt the core operating principle of open information as a design principle of transformation and business success. They leverage and optimize information as a strategic response to the business need for relevance and productivity in the digital era. Information becomes a leadership platform, front and centre in enterprise transformation.
Within the federal government, information out loud is entirely consistent with Blueprint 2020 and open government directions.
The Institute on Governance, MIGHTY Purpose and three Canadian universities are currently collaborating on the creation of a partnership network to further advance this thinking and practice. A Digital Governance Forum is being held in Ottawa in January 2015 to this effect.
What does the future hold?
Innovating how the federal government leverages and optimizes its information is a question on the minds of many.
We believe that small steps can enable big change. “Information Out Loud: The 30 Day Challenge” is your opportunity to advance this conversation more broadly within and outside the IM/IT community. The next 30 days is your time to share success stories with us and how you will participate in enabling transformation and business efficiency through a focus on information for better government and improved governance.