Most enterprises have no information strategy

Less than 10 percent of today’s enterprises have a true information strategy, according to Gartner, Inc. Recent research by Gartner has found that, just as business model thinking wasn’t mainstream or well rehearsed a decade ago, management thinking at an “information as strategy” level is still evolving.

“When asked about the new kinds of information they anticipate as being disruptive in the next few years, half of the respondents to Gartner’s 2013 Worldwide CEO and Senior Executive Survey could not provide an answer or name a technology,” said Partha Iyengar, country manager for Research, India at Gartner.”The social Internet, inexpensive sensors, the Internet of things and other trends will cause an explosion in the types of information that are available. In this way, competition will increasingly be defined by differential access, control and value recognition and timely exploitation of information.”

As business leaders reconfigure and re-skill their organizations in order to take advantage of these opportunities, Gartner has identified four key focal points for organizational development:

1. How will new kinds of information drive value? Who will be creative with that? How will they explore their ideas? What support is in place for information led innovation?

2. As information improves in its granularity, precision or resolution, who will notice when key thresholds have passed and new things become possible that were not realistic before?

3. How will the organization search, discover, conjoin and secure the new datasets and information streams that are becoming available?

4. How will they engineer the social and legal permissions needed to use information without it seeming like spying, privacy invasion or unfairness?

Leveraging the above effectively requires overlapping human, professional and organizational competencies. Sharpening each of them will be key to competitive success

Given the level of important strategic work to be done on the information that the company uses, it is essential to identify who in the organization is ultimately responsible for this. In most organizations, the real answer is “everyone and no-one”, but that cannot be sustained because the complexity, risk and opportunity presented by the information explosion keeps on expanding. Most CIOs do not take responsibility for information policy, for new information acquisition or for information asset business exploitation. CEOs are beginning to see that gap and try to fill it, with a head of information management or a chief data officer (CDO).

“We have talked to a number of CDOs about their appointment and the circumstances that led to it. It seems the appointment of a CDO often relates to an awakening within the senior leadership of the firm regarding the importance of information management and the current lack of ownership and focus on it,” said Mr. Iyengar. “The most enlightened boards and CEOs are beginning to understand the value potential — sometimes appointing CDOs to exploit information assets more aggressively. Those less advanced in the trend seem to act from a position of concern about the risk of a lack of governance leading to regulatory or reputational problems.”

In order to break through to higher levels of corporate enlightenment on information centricity, Gartner recommends three simple methods:

Method 1: Visualize

The first technique Gartner recommends to shift the culture of the business leadership of the firm to become more information strategy centric is to visualize what they already have. Computers today are able to render complex graphical representations cheaply and easily, and as a result creativity in visualization will become a key part of the competitive landscape in the second half of the information age. Companies that find better ways to represent complex information will win in better internal decision making capability and in better service products to their customers.

Method 2: Vision and breakpoint

Method two for creating breakthrough thinking among senior leaders is to create a visionary scenario for the use of some new kind of information and then plot its future. People are often much more willing to entertain big, challenging ideas if they seem to be a way off into the future — because they seem less threatening.

Method 3: External exposure

One way to get an organization to think about itself and its opportunities is to get others to comment. Organizations often listen to “outsiders” — peers, competitors, press, stakeholders, consultants etc. as much as their own insiders. Many government information thought leaders are moving down this track. They believe that datasets buried in their own systems could be of far wider value and that, if exposed, they are more likely to be linked together in new and innovative combinations that might create even more value.

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