Introduction and key concepts
As the economy and the society overall connects ever more deeply and intricately, organizations need to start thinking more broadly about how they lead their information management practices.
Decisions about why, what information is acquired, stored, processed and shared cannot be made thinking solely based on internal premises and requirements any longer without risking strategic opportunities and the most effective business solutions.
Ecosystems thinking, which consists of considering organizations, their partners and clients holistically (as a system), should span information management strategies, and shared standards relating to information and data taxonomies, metadata management, data quality management, identity management and security and infrastructure services.
Solutions on how to implement data and information acquisition, aggregation and storing, business access services and information delivery and sharing should remain more decoupled, as organizations need to be able to retain the ability to control their own business process development.
Need for a broader and deeper collaboration and the most common pitfall of execution
When stated in this article, “collaboration” refers to information sharing and dissemination – in a structured and organized manner.
Organizations today need to collaborate more widely and deeply than ever before. This trend will continue and deepen, as it is caused by the world connecting through internet and digital service platforms. If you do not connect within your ecosystem more deeply, you cannot respond to the rapid changes in how society and the global economy operate and what is expected from any organization as interdependent parts of their wider value networks, i.e. ecosystems.
Extending the data and information management outside organizational boundaries in a structured and managed way is not only beneficial for most organizations, but a given requirement for many. Still in many occasions the information flows that are clearly not confined to a single organization, are hampered by the lack or, in many cases, non-existing common structures and processes for setting the vision, strategy and standards around the matters.
What often happens when collaboration is required within the ecosystems, especially in public sector organizations (where such an approach is more realistic and possible in the first place), is that the integration is executed wrong: It is executed at the process (controller-view) level, rather than at the information (model) level. Only if there is are clear and undeniable basis and rationale for process integration, should that happen. Most often, the real need is to share data and information, not the processes.
Extending information management beyond organizational boundaries
The first key idea is common strategic direction and standardization within the ecosystem. Information management vision and strategy to achieve that vision can and in many settings clearly should be defined together, rather than individually. It is simply very shortsighted and narrow thinking not to. Vision and strategy define why, and what data and information should be shared within the ecosystem. Standards and policies – the tools (the how) to actually instigate and direct the implementation of the strategy – should then be derived based on the vision and strategy.
Second key idea is the separation of information management and solutionsmanagement space (i.e. applications and information systems) and their management. Joint strategy and standards development touch the solution space, especially in the areas of enterprise information management; content management and business intelligence (if shared BI analysis and market intelligence dissemination are desired).
On applicability and benefits
Integration of the information governance principles described in this article need naturally be integrated as an integral part of the overall Enterprise Architecture model of an organization, if such a model exists. If an EA model is lacking, or non-existent, it should be defined. Process and information architectures are the most vital parts of a business driven EA model. EA is a business document, not a technical paper.
Overall, the models of this article cannot extensively be applied in many ecosystems easily. In some cases the benefits of harmonization may not yield enough benefits to justify the efforts of bringing different organizational processes together; however, those areas that would be beneficial and viable to strategize and standardize can be identified, then evaluating whether to proceed with changes or not. In public sector settings, the suggested models can typically be more easily instigated – and mandated.
Govern and manage the shared data and information together with your ecosystem partners, and your organization’s productivity, innovation and effectiveness will increase. You will be able to serve your clients faster and more accurately. Separate the solutions space from the information space and you retain the freedom to be able adjust your processes as you see fit at a given situation when the need for changes occur – and occur they will.