Nearly all companies nowadays list IT optimisation, transformation and transition as one of their top priorities. The reasons and objectives may vary from case to case, but the challenges are virtually the same.
The target/performance difference drives manpower and costs for IT, diminishes availability and performance and stands in the way of any transformation towards a more future-oriented IT – thereby adding to cost and effort.
“Information at your fingertips”: Borrowing from well know quotes, a way towards ‘Simplify IT Information Management’ shall be presented here. ‘Simplify’ is an often used buzzword in the formulation of approaches for dealing with complex tasks. In the following, we will firstly touch upon the problems in IT information management and secondly describe “Simplify IT Information Management” by way of specific methods.
The Problem With Information
Information needs to be unambiguous, reliable and readily available at all times. Information users want to use available information for better and faster decision-making. In practice, they come up against limits. Many questions are faced with non-existent or unreliable information. Information users and providers face different challenges, thus creating an information gap. This is most obvious in the following three areas:
- Information content and reliability of existing documentation
- An often formalised document management system for individual purposes can be found in place of IT Information Management
- Overlapping backgrounds such as IT optimisation, transformation or IT integration
Prior to taking a more in-depth look at the methods for simplification, we would like to briefly describe the three problem areas mentioned.
The Biggest Fallacy: All The Necessary Information is Available
Even though – or exactly because – tens of thousands of individual documents exist for many areas, from a user’s point of view, the information content and reliability of the existing documentation is mostly insufficient and often irrelevant in terms of the actual question asked. A growing number of documents generally results in several negative effects: While clarity is drastically reduced, the maintenance effort increases in reverse proportion. Companies often fall prey to the fallacy that the sheer volume of documents means that the required information has to exist somewhere in written form. Comparisons with contemporary, freely available Wikis such as Wikipedia support this finding.
Document Management vs Information Management
For the information provider (usually the IT service provider), the common approach of ‘a new document for every purpose’ means that costs for generating and – most importantly – for maintaining information become prohibitive. From the information user’s point of view, this approach also means that the information is only relevant in relation to a specific question at a specific point in time. If the question or point in time changes, the information will most likely be worthless.
Why Simplify Information Management?
Many of the reasons for Simplify IT Information Management are of a cross-functional nature. Overarching challenges such as IT optimisation, transformation or IT integration play a central role in the current debate on IT strategies. These challenges are virtually impossible to master on the basis of existing IT information. They generally start with the costly creation and gathering of information, which for their part are just snapshots for a targeted individual purpose. Simplify IT Information Management greatly facilitates and expedites IT optimisation, transformation and IT integration – it will soon become apparent to you why this is the case.
Simplify IT Information Management
IT workers spend too much time on irrelevant documentation and are often engaged in issues of little relevance. The IT Information Pool must not remain a snapshot. The maintainability of information must be ensured. The main objectives can be summarised as follows:
- Focus on the essential and provide reliable information
- Reduce costs
- Establish maintainability of information
Simplify IT Information Management essentially depends on procedure models and methodological approaches. Individual steps build on each other and interlink in places. Core strategical elements are:
- Requirements management:
Works like software development: Without a coordinated and integrated requirements management, costs are pushed up in the long run – with lacklustre results.
- Procedure Models, Methods:
Procedure models, methods and templates help to simplify IT information management and offer a clear guideline.
- Single Source of Information:
Information is often available dozens of times and frequently self-contradictory – this also applies to IT. This sort of redundancy must be avoided.
- Clean up:
In order to achieve an uncluttered, ‘clean’ result, the wheat must be separated from the chaff. Here you will find out how.
As surprising as it may sound: Hardly any company nowadays utilises the coordination of requirements for IT information management. From the perspective of the information provider, requirements are uncoordinated, often come as a surprise and always serve one single purpose. Requirements come from different stakeholders and the objectives are not described in sufficient detail. In addition, they are often of a formalistic character.
Important in terms of finding a solution is: The stakeholders should be known and their long-term goals laid down in writing and coordinated. On the basis of the agreed long-term goals, more detailed goals may be derived and formulated for the detailed planning.
Single Source of Information
What is the difference between the business IT documentation and Wikipedia? One could provocatively state that with Wikipedia you can find everything straight away and all the information is relevant. The information value is generally very high and there is very little redundancy, meaning the information can be clearly identified. In an ideal scenario, the same would apply to the IT information within a company because the information is unambiguous, easier to maintain and does not get lost among irrelevant information. The result is an overall increase in the information content. The Wikipedia approach helps to achieve precisely that and provides the information provider with relevant guidance. You can read more about it in our newsletter: “What can Business IT Learn From Wikipedia?”
Procedure Models, Methods & Templates*
Procedure models, methods and templates help to simplify IT information management. They provide a clear guideline and can be used multiple times without having to reinvent the wheel each time. This saves time and does not just help the information provider because the information user can find and absorb information a lot quicker if it is always created and displayed in the same manner.
Moreover, IT information managers and editors, who are in charge of the overall process, support the IT SME (Subject Matter Expert) in generating and maintaining information.
*You can find more info on the general IT information management procedure model in our whitepaper: “Making the Right Decisions Fast”
In large companies, the number of individual documents with presumed IT relevance can quickly reach volumes of over 500,000 items. It is necessary to tame this historically acquired proliferation – but how? What is useful and what is ballast?
It is impossible to view every single document and one should not get lost in the sheer number of documents. Of course, a lot needs to be viewed, evaluated, corrected and supplemented – but with the help of coarse filters, the majority can be ‘pre-archived’. Once roughly sorted, proven methods, IT information management experts and SMEs help to find the right balance between usable and expendable documents. This step by step approach thus creates areas where information becomes unambiguous and relevant.
Despite the apparently available information, information users reach their limits again and again and IT experts spend too much time on providing and maintaining information. If just every fifth expert spent 20% of their time on documentation, this would mean a total of 4% of the overall IT services.
The requirements management and single source of information approaches drastically reduce costs for information providers. The volume of material to be documented is greatly reduced, even if new requirements are added to the content. Fully developed procedure models, tried and tested methods and templates are the key features for further cost reduction. The above-mentioned segregation of ballast is a further step towards cost reduction.
In order to maintain the intrinsic value of information in the long run, a strategy for the maintainability of information sources is of existential importance. The above outlined methods foster better planning and mean that historically acquired ballast can be discarded. In addition, IT information has to be sensibly structured and centrally managed by IT information managers for it to achieve maintainability. If new requirements/stakeholders are added, the information to be compiled can be unambiguously arranged within the structure to eliminate redundancies.
Moreover, one ‘accountable’ and the corresponding ‘responsible’ person(s) must be assigned to each piece of information. Once names (persons) are assigned, they are personally responsible for the content and maintenance of the information.
More About IT Information Managment
- Newsletter “IT Information Management”
- Whitepaper “Making the Right Decisions Fast”
- Newsletter “What can Business IT Learn From Wikipedia?”
- Newsletter “(Un)informed About IT Risks?”
Simplify IT Information Management (PDF)
Information needs to be unambiguous, reliable and readily available at all times.