IT organizations face many, and on occasion conflicting, challenges in providing the information that business requires. They therefore must base their systems decisions on a strategic view of how information, both structured and unstructured, is used in the business. While IT planners should keep in mind near-term costs, they also must make sure that short-sighted design decisions do not eventually force costly information system reengineering.
"Information management" more often than not means the management of enterprise content - that is, documents, e-mails, records and the like. However, the scope of information management is broadening, coming to encompass the management of any bit of data within an organization. Driving this change are a variety of information requirements: Executive demand for a comprehensive understanding of the state of the business; the need to react in an informed way to new threats and opportunities; a desire to share, reuse and maximize the value of information across an organization; the need to integrate data from new external sources; wanting to minimize the accidental use of obsolete information; and providing a single, integrated interface to machine and human information sources.
IT organizations and vendors have worked at meeting these requirements, but many of the focused applications and tools deployed by businesses have delivered mixed results. Narrow evaluations of needed functionality and cost-driven decisions often have led organizations to forgo capabilities that would contribute to longer use and wider deployment of the systems. Customization of off-the-shelf technologies to conform to business approaches has left implementations brittle and costly to maintain and enhance. Vendors have resisted developing newer, better, but potentially lower-priced products for fear of destroying their revenue streams. Growing costs to maintain and upgrade existing software investments threaten to consume available IT resources. Organizations that have reached this critical point need a strategic plan for enterprise-wide information management.
Most organizations will address these needs through incremental investments. For those that do, long-term success will depend on successfully identifying investments in information management that address immediate information needs while laying the groundwork for an overall strategy.
An information integration plan that makes both tactical and strategic sense is a key to success. Organizations thus should plan not only for current information needs but also for the next generation of needs. In other words, plan for two generations of requirements. By doing so, organizations can include enough infrastructure generalization to minimize future rip-and-replace mistakes while keeping short-term costs under control.
Ventana Research recommends that any integration plan be preceded by a top-to-bottom assessment of where and how information currently is integrated. Companies should consider how they integrate and use desktop authoring technologies such as spreadsheets and presentations, analytic data aggregators such as online analytical processing (OLAP) cubes and data warehouses, collaboration and content management software, and integration technologies such as federated query engines and message buses, along with newer approaches such as enterprise search software and even RSS information feeds. This assessment will clarify how a generalized structure for comprehensive information integration can be built to satisfy near-term needs while still enabling longer-term and more strategic maturation.
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2006 Ventana Research