Thursday, May 30, 2013

One way to look at Information Services

In my last post I discussed the need to have a governing system for information management. I called the lack thereof: “Information Services Contract Failure”. I will now discuss one way to look at Information Services.

Enterprise Architecture, as broken-down by the TOGAF framework, looks at an organization as comprising of Business, Information Systems (Data and Applications) and Technology. When you look at the business from an information perspective, you have business processes, which require and result in information and applications which act as custodians to the business information. Now while business interaction defines the conditions for an Information Services contract, it does not imply that contract exist merely between two involved business parties. As you know, one piece of information is usually relevant to more than one user, and the same piece of information could be originated from multiple sources in various ways.
Managing an Information Service Contract focuses on the information. Not its sources. Not its users. The information itself as an asset. Obviously the value is measured through its usage, and its liability through its handling costs and associated risks of misuse. So what we are really saying here is that the management of information is owned by the business as a whole, and not by a single (unfortunate) department. One way to implement this is through a central Information Management business team, who looks after one or more types of information. It is not the only care taker of the information and it does not own the information. It simply takes accountability for safeguarding the information and hence needs to have authority to influence internal custodians of the information. This does not include any legal rights to decide how the information must be handled. They must coordinate, advise, provide monitoring and insights and they can help manage the flow and organization of the information – but that is it.
Now, like any other business area, a central Information Management team have their own technology support. These people must look after ALL the data hubs, warehouses, and reporting platforms of the organization. You may want to  p a u s e  here and think about what this really means in terms of the current structure of your technology organization.

You might think that with a central team that manages the “golden copy” of the information there are no trust issues. But, while it might be true that in this model information converges through one (logical) path, trust in information emanates not from the lack of ambiguity, but rather from the degree of appropriateness of the information for it designated use.
According to an article I recently read (“The Hidden Biases in Big Data”), you need to consider the completeness-accuracy of data. Some data gets excluded due to technical limitations in sourcing it. However, there is another consideration relating to accuracy and that is the inappropriate use of filters. While we would like to believe that people intend for information to remain objective, poor decisions, driven out of preconceptions and/or lack of skill – can easily lead to skewed information with significant business implications.
For example, if a beverages distributor assumes low profit margins in a particular region based on past sales and economic conditions, he may decide to ignore or adjust any higher than expected sales figures as they do not make sense and deemed as errors. This can easily affect the company negatively. Firstly in terms of puzzling financial reports, which will result with extra cash that remains unallocated. This might then be adjusted later as an accounting error, or adjusted to sales figures from another period. This can even affect the marketing team, who would deem their actually successful marketing strategy as a failure.
As much as information quality is in the eye of the user, so is its trustworthiness in the hands of its craftsmen.

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