I’ve often joked that if you want to kill a dinner conversation, ask me what I do for a living. Now I happen to think that “driving better business decision-making through improved information management” is only a hair less exciting than “astronaut” – but the yawns and glazed-over eyes of my dinner guests seem to conflict with that sentiment.
My goal is to talk about the big, broad world of Enterprise Information Management (EIM) that I play in every day – and try not to bore you too much. I’ve read many of the EIM materials out there, and they are certainly full of fantastic information, but typically lacking a certain something to keep most educated professionals awake.
This is the first of a multi-part series on the 10 essential data management (aka EIM) disciplines identified by the Data Management Association (DAMA). Like smelling salts for the data management world, in each part I will give you 5 keys to try to unlock a particular domain of the DAMA 10. Some of the keys may work in your company, some may unlock other domains, and some may not even be close to helpful for your situation – but at the end of it I guarantee you will know more about EIM than you ever thought you would. And if not, you can come over for dinner!
Figure 1: 10 Data Management Disciplines (adapted from the Data Management Association)
Let’s save digging into the big one in the center, Data Governance, for next time. Instead, today let’s look at 5 Keys to Unlock EIM:
KEY 1: Enterprise Information Management (EIM) by any other name means basically the same thing
“Enterprise Information Management” for long (or “EIM” for short) simply describes the entire universe related to data flows in an organization. People, processes, systems, security, you name it – if it touches the data, EIM cares about it. DAMA prefers “Data Management” but I prefer EIM because it connotes a decidedly more holistic approach at an enterprise-level. “Data Management” is so broad and vague that you never really know where somebody is going when they first say it. It also doesn’t have as cool of an acronym.
KEY 2: You shouldn’t try to build every EIM discipline simultaneously
If you read through all 10 of the above EIM disciplines, your first reaction is likely “that’s a whole lot of great things to do,” and many of us would add “and my company should probably start doing them.” On the plus side, I’ve never encountered an organization that does none of them – and I’ve never seen an organization that is excellent at all of them (though they are rumored to exist).
What I have frequently seen are companies that try to go from near-nothing to everything as part of one big project. It typically doesn’t end well. The best advice I can give is to evaluate how your company performs on each discipline, and then figure out how well your company needs to perform on that discipline. Then prioritize and focus your EIM energies accordingly.
KEY 3: You really shouldn’t try to only build one EIM discipline
By following the above advice, you may realize that you are in desperate need of data governance. This is a common realization, and you are probably right. The mistake would be to see that Data Governance (DG) is in the middle, so you should do that really well before worrying about Metadata Management (MM) or Data Quality Management (DQM).
Using EIM to promote overall data health in your business should be the primary focus, and concentrating on one area at the expense of others will lead to problems. It’s like if you are a weight lifter and want to only work on your calf muscles. You could have some awesome calves, but you would just end up looking strange. Try not to do that with your EIM.
KEY 4: Balance is more important than perfection
Key 3 was a prelude to this one. You need to manage the disciplines within EIM holistically, like how a program will manage projects. The interdependencies between these EIM disciplines are simply too great to leave to chance. You are far better off mobilizing a Data Governance (DG) committee with specific decisions to make in terms of Data Quality Management (DQM) than for them to simply sit in the board room crafting high-level policies distributed via email and universally ignored by everybody else.
Starting small and targeted, while keeping a strategic eye on the future growth demands, is the way to build traction and demonstrate value quickly. This makes future investments in these activities easier to obtain, and your organization will gain better insights into which EIM activities will be most valuable to pursue next.
Key 5: Some of these may not apply to your situation – but they probably do
“We are a paperless company, so ‘Document and Content Management’ doesn’t apply to us!!”
Really? Even though paper documents are covered by that category, so is electronic document management, PDFs, and things like intranet and internet content management. If you have none of those things, your business may not be real.
Though any organization of decent size will have things to consider and catch up in these EIM disciplines, it is important to think about how organizations reach this point. When a company is first created, often with as few as a handful of people, does that company need a strong EIM presence? Of course not. What about whey reach 10 people? 30? 100?
It varies for every company, but typically companies grow far beyond the size where EIM becomes useful before they realize that EIM has become necessary. This is nobody’s fault, as the company was focused on building its business and growing – and clearly did some things right along the way. But inevitably, growing companies will reach a point where the pain of not doing EIM eclipses the pain of doing it.
And at that point, it is time to look for the keys to doing EIM right. Stay tuned, and I’ll give you plenty of the ones you need to get started.
Anthony J. Algmin is a Manager in the Business Intelligence Practice at West Monroe Partners.