The EIM Puzzle – February 2012

At the highest level, Enterprise Information Management is concerned with the management of data – its availability, currency, usefulness, accuracy and relationships with other enterprise data.  Management of data is not an IT function, although many technical products and tools are used to implement EIM. EIM is a business responsibility, shared with IT but “owned” by the business entity and instituted across the enterprise.  Like any other enterprise effort, successful EIM programs involve people, processes, tools, standards and activities that are managed at both strategic and operational levels.  And, like any other successful enterprise initiative, EIM starts with a vision, which is communicated and sustained by the enterprise.

Webster defines “vision” as: a thought, concept, or object formed by the imagination; unusual discernment or foresight; the act or power of seeing.  With this definition as a basis, we can say that a “vision” for EIM would include the articulation of what the organization thinks that concept should entail for them, what they “see” as the state to be achieved by the act of organizing and managing data as an enterprise asset.  To achieve that end-state, it is imperative that the organization communicates a compelling vision for changing the status quo concerning data management, setting achievable targets to measure success in EIM.  The company must contribute sufficient enterprise resources to develop the vision / concept, or there is no reason to begin an EIM program. Also, this vision must be understood and supported by the senior management and by all sponsors of the various EIM initiatives (data governance, master data management, data quality management, data / information architecture, metadata management, etc). 

Many organizations launch some form of data management efforts as part of a business-unit or division-level project, and do not acknowledge the need for an enterprise approach to managing the common asset, data.  This project-oriented approach to overarching programs such as information management can cause the development of multiple initiatives, each with its own set of missions, standards, procedures, policies and activities, creating a “Tower of Babel” and preventing unified view of information from existing at the organization.  When the organization finally recognizes the need for an enterprise view of data and the need for enterprise management of data, all of these disparate efforts must be dismantled and replaced – causing confusion and conflict within the affected areas.  Start with the enterprise view, and avoid the need to replace individual projects at some future date.  The enterprise view does not preclude developing business-unit or division level projects, as long as those projects are aligned from the start with the accepted enterprise view of EIM.

The first step in every successful enterprise information management effort is the establishment of a common vision and mission for data and its administration across the enterprise.  The vision articulates the state the organization wishes to achieve with data, and how EIM and its components will foster reaching that state.  It is important to have the skills of a specialist in EIM program strategy at the start, to ensure that enterprise approach includes all areas of the organization as the team develops the enterprise’s vision for data and its management.  All of the subsequent activities of any EIM effort should be based on this vision.  Many organizations neglect to include EIM and its components in the planning and execution of projects such as application development or system integration, despite the fact that EIM can improve the success of any initiative that involves data.

Communication of this EIM vision is essential.  Every person responsible for creating, managing or using any data must understand and support the EIM vision.  EIM activities should be part of all projects, and measurement of a project’s success should include how well the project achieved the organization’s EIM vision.  Periodic refinement of the vision is an important step, so that the enterprise continues to follow the best path for managing information as conditions change and new situations develop.

In the final analysis, the best EIM programs are those that begin with a clear and achievable vision for managing information and data as corporate assets, one that is uniformly communicated to the organization, refined as necessary and incorporated in the enterprise’s operating principles.

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About Anne Marie Smith, Ph.D.

Anne Marie Smith, Ph.D., is an acclaimed data management professional, consultant, author and speaker in the fields of enterprise information management, data stewardship and governance, data warehousing, data modeling, project management, business requirements management, IS strategic planning and metadata management. She holds a doctorate in Management Information Systems, and is a certified data management professional (CDMP), a certified business intelligence professional (CBIP), and holds several insurance certifications.

Anne Marie has served on the board of directors of DAMA International and on the board of the Insurance Data Management Association.  She is a member of the MIS faculty of Northcentral University and has taught at several universities. As a thought leader, Anne Marie writes frequently for data / information management publications on a variety of data-oriented topics.  She can be reached through her website at http://www.alabamayankeesystems.com and through her LinkedIn profile at http://www.linkedin.com/in/annemariesmith.

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