When Bill Clinton successfully ran for US President in 1992 his campaign strategist James Carville summed up their strategy in its totality as this: "It's the economy, stupid."
This theme was self-evidently ubiquitous throughout the campaign at every occasion and made the audience aware at each opportunity where they needed to focus -- on economic management.
Not dissimilarly, when you look at how IT is ingrained within a large, complex organisation, it is obvious to see the core value lies in the information itself. The only reason we need things like firewalls, servers, printers, hard drives, screens, encryption or networks is to either protect, access, print, store, display, encrypt or transmit information. Without the underlying information we wouldn't need any of these peripheral devices.
In short, the fundamental information within an organisation is way more important than any of the technology used to manage that information. It's the information, stupid.
However, there are five key areas which will impact the quality and value of business information within an organisation which are sometimes under-addressed:
" Who is responsible for maintaining it?
" What is its purpose?
" How long do we keep it for, and where?
" How do we protect it?
" How do we ensure it doesn't become tainted?
The key purpose of IT within an organisation is to enable the business strategy and help the organisation become the business it needs to become. This is achieved through both the strategic and tactical use of information, with the ultimate ownership and responsibility for information residing with the CIO. This is what the 'I' in CIO represents -- 'Information'.
Addressing each of the areas above can be expressed as per the following:
Informational management: In order for the CIO to help enable the business strategy, the two initial mandatory steps are to firstly create the right IT organisational structure (that is, what IT-related roles are needed to support the business and its strategy) and then ensure the right person is in the right position. Everything else flows from these initial steps. Without these key planks in place, delivering IT value is more difficult, expensive and risky.
Informational purpose: All corporate information should have a purpose and the ultimate goal is to use this information to enable the business.
This might sound tautological at first blush, however understanding this statement is germane to understanding the effect and value of information in the enterprise. I'm afraid I belong to the school of philosophy where "there are no IT projects, only business projects". If an initiative is proposed which will have no bearing on contributing to the corporate strategy or supporting the business operationally (aka: keeping the lights on or scaling existing systems and architecture) then hard questions should be asked about its purpose for existing in the first place.
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