Strategy for Enterprise Information Management
As information within organizations proliferates, enterprise information management techniques and vendor offerings to corral data represent greater value to financial institutions, telecommunications companies and retailers — businesses that have developed complex data collection points and warehouse structures.
Few, as yet, have achieved consistency in definition of master data and consolidated reporting, perhaps because they throw resources at the challenge without setting a strategy around it first. By taking the right approach from the beginning — evaluating the enterprise and specific data needs across business functions and identifying the government regulations relevant to the information captured and used — IT professionals can save time, money and their nervous systems.
“The volume of global information is exploding,” said Jane Griffin, principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP, Atlanta, citing University of California at Berkeley estimates that information volumes double every 18 months. “According to Forrester, data volumes will approach one zettabyte by 2010.” That number of bytes is expressed in 22 figures.
Many IT professionals have neither the time nor the expertise in data formatting, systems integration, information storage and governance or various regulatory standards to optimize the value of the data collecting rapidly across their enterprises. For some, an increased IT budget and the employment of new databases, software and middleware look like a fix.
One organization, in Griffin’s experience, used 117 databases and 24 business intelligence packages at the cost of $80 million a year. The splintered software strategy and hard-to-swallow price tag may have been worth it if the tools integrated data resources and produced for effective information use. Instead, “they were reporting multiple versions of the truth, and client dissatisfaction was high.” There was no common master data, data store or reporting infrastructure.
The people who rely on their systems knowledge have even less understanding of the issues around information management, and often less patience.
“Executives and operational managers who are managing performance expect the same immediate gratification from internal information that they have from a Google search, but [they] aren’t able to achieve [it] because of complex structures, silos and lack of common definition,” Griffin said.
The “how” is to implement enterprise information management solutions that winnow unique and effective databases, reporting packages and business analytics software from those that are redundant and averse to integration.
Besides taking an honest look at hardware and software in use or under consideration, preparation for an enterprise information management strategy begs a data governance and regulatory compliance evaluation. Data owners, stewards, council members and data managers must explore the company’s responsibility to the following:
- Various import and export regulations.
- Federal and state privacy regulations.
- Basel II.
- Environmental protection acts.
- National and international account standards.
- FDA and/or industry-specific regulations.
- Labor provisions.
- ISO standards.
“The most difficult part of EIM is changing the culture to value and manage information as a strategic asset while harmonizing processes and transforming the key business functions,” said Griffin. These functions are finance, supply chain management, and customer and account services.
But the benefits are worth the considerable effort and are scalable. As data volume grows, so does the positive impact of enterprise information management. The pluses of an EIM strategy include:
- Increased operational efficiency gained by the elimination of excess resources spent rekeying data into different departments’ databases and siloed applications.
- Reduction of data errors and multiple truths.
- Comprehensive customer relationships.
- Optimized profitability from individual client contacts through effective cross-sales, customized marketing efforts, improved customer satisfaction, etc.
- Correct and timely reporting.
- Reduction of IT cost from data redundancy, data quality issues and process inefficiency.
- Competitive advantage through rapid response to market dynamics rapidly.
- Consistent global performance management.
“While EIM isn’t a sure cure, it has a very high return on investment from a vastly unleveraged information asset,” Griffin said.
Kelly Shermach is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn, N.Y., who frequently writes about technology and data security. She can be reached at editor (at) certmag (dot) com.