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What is Information Management? Barriers to Effective Information Management & Consequences of Poor Information Management
In this digital age, it has never been more important to understand information management and its implications, particularly in light of recent legislation such as the Notifiable Data Breaches scheme. However, a lack of understanding and/or ineffective information management serves as one of the most underecognised problems currently facing organisations, which is surprising, considering the serious repercussions it can have. Let’s examine what information management (IM) is, the consequences of poor information management and common barriers to effective information management.
What is information management?
Information is a valuable resource that plays an important role both in public and private sectors. It is a resource that, if properly managed and utilised, can ignite innovation, improve business decision making, raise levels of productivity, ensure consistent standards of quality and thereby raise an organisation’s level of competitiveness.
Information management focuses on managing structured and unstructured information in any format (including emails, video, data found in line of business applications, website content and social media), as an asset throughout its life-cycle. This discipline encompasses the collection, storage, dissemination, archiving and destruction of information, through planning, organisation and structure, processing, controlling, evaluation and reporting. Information management employs the framework, policies, processes, procedures and technology to effectively manage information at an organisational level to conduct business activities.
Well known subsets that fall under information management’s umbrella include information security, risk and compliance, data privacy and protection, information governance, analytics, eDiscovery and records management. IM is closely related to and overlaps with data management, IT systems and technology, and organisational strategy,
Effective information management can yield many benefits including reduced operational costs, increased revenue, managed risk and regulatory compliance. It is an organisational responsibility that needs to be addressed and driven from the upper echelons of the leadership team. When information management isn’t prioritised, the consequences for enterprises can be substantial.
The Consequences of Poor Information Management
Poor information management can lead to significant issues, as discovered in recent research conducted by the University of South Australia, exploring the benefits and obstacles to managing information as a business asset. The report found:
- An energy company was forced to redesign a plant from scratch after an explosion, as they couldn’t find the original plans
- Poor recordkeeping meant an oil and gas company accidentally obliterated seismic lines, each worth $6 million
- An insurance company had in storage one million boxes of information, including 20,000 which hadn’t been opened, containing an estimated $1.5 million worth of unprocessed claims
- A government department’s inability to locate documentation lead to its inability to defend an $18 million action
The consequences of poor information management have short-term and long-term impacts on organisations, varying in significance. Non-compliance to regulatory requirements is generally the most recognised consequence, which can lead to hefty monetary penalties. A lack of information security is probably one of the more serious issues that we have been hearing a lot about in the news lately – consider recent cyber-attacks, data breaches and unauthorised access. Other common ramifications include;
- Lost IP resulting in the inability to fulfil an FOI request or respond to legal proceedings
- Inability to use information for decision making (i.e. healthcare providers using data and information for clinical decisions, or an executive unable to quantify how many clients have been effected by a manufacturing error)
- Inefficiency in day-to-day operations by duplication of effort, rework or searching for information
- A PR ‘black eye’ from an incident like a data breach
Despite there being a whole host of negative repercussions for poor information management, many organisations still aren’t investing in IM, often due to these commonly encountered barriers.
Barriers to Effective Information Management
Whilst more organisations are beginning to recognise the need for information management initiatives, numerous common barriers tend to slow adoption. In 2012, Evans and Price undertook some research into barriers to effective information management, identifying the following roadblocks typically encountered in organisations;
Leadership & Management
- Lack of executive support
- Mistakes are not tolerated and therefore hinder a culture of learning
- Managers create workarounds rather than fixing the underlying issue
- IM practices aren’t rewarded or recognised and linked to managerial performance
- Organisation lacks an information management vision
- Organisation focuses on information technology, not information management
- Lack of discipline
- Resistance to change
- CIO has a technical focus
- Lack of appropriate responsibility and accountability
- Level of the responsible person
- Problem is not recognised
- No formal Secondary and Tertiary education
- Limited informal on-the-job training and induction
- Board does not understand information management
- Organisation immaturity
Enabling Systems & Practices
- Technology shortcomings
- Poor IT reputation
- Lack of a catalyst or incentive to act
- Compliance is often the only driver
- Compliance and risk are burdensome
- Other priorities prevail
- Cost, value and benefit are unknown
- The value of information is contextual
- Benefits are intangible, intertwined and difficult to crystallise
- Inefficiency is rewarded
- IM is not an interesting topic
- Lack of measurement
- Lack of budget
Whatever sector you’re in, and regardless of your organisation’s size, it’s imperative that you invest in the management of your information. Information is the lifeblood of most organisations – if it isn’t managed properly, the organisation’s health will likely suffer. Many organisation enlist the assistance of a specialist to develop a strong information management strategy and information governance framework. If you feel your organisation could benefit from advice in this area, please get in touch with our team.
John Whitehead LLB (Hons)
Senior Business Consultant
John has worked in the Information Management industry at a senior level for over twenty years and brings his wide-ranging technical, commercial and management skills to each project. He is client focussed and has a proven track record of providing Information Management solutions that deliver significant business value to his clients.
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