17 November 2012

Business Information Management

Business Information Management refers to the activities that organizations perform in order to ensure that they are using information in an appropriate manner. It includes the application of information technology but excludes responsibility for the supply of IT services, that are deemed to be provided by Application Management and IT Infrastructure Management working in unison with each other and with Business Information Management. The following definition is a combination of definitions used by the Australian Queensland Government and AIIM.

“Business information management is the means by which an organization efficiently plans, collects, organizes, uses, controls, disseminates and disposes of its information, and through which it ensures that the value of that information is identified and exploited to the fullest extent. It is a corporate responsibility that needs to be addressed and followed from the most senior levels of management to the front line worker. Organizations must be held and must hold their employees accountable to manage information appropriately and responsibly.”

14 November 2012

BITA drives me bonkers

This Business IT Alignment thing drives me bonkers. Do we agree on what we mean by it? BITA is surely just a means to a goal. The goal is about getting value out of IT and BITA is ‘the degree to which IT as a business asset provides value’. I believe that it boils down to two questions:
1. Are we spending the right amount of time and money on IT (or should we be spending more or less on other business assets such as land and labour)?
2. Is the time and money spent on IT, well spent?
The first one is about decision-making, the second is about execution. Both depend on many factors for which people in both the business and IT are responsible.

Decision-making: We need the right business people taking well-informed decisions about critical IT domains in order to create an appropriate mix of value, costs and risks from a business perspective. And IT people have a responsibility to inform the business people in a way that they can apply the knowledge. I like the metaphor of power assisted steering here: the business steers and IT makes it easy to steer.

Execution: It’s all about competences and relationships. And I don’t think that competences are the bottleneck. Technical people (not only IT, just think about some medical specialists) are notoriously insensitive to human needs. And if there's no meaningful relationship, there's no trust. And if there's no trust and if you don't think that's your first priority, then you've lost the plot.

So invest in the relationship by showing genuine interest (and as a by-product, discovering what the business actually does instead of what you imagine they do or should be doing in an ideal world) and by demonstrating personal integrity (set realistic expectations and ensure that you meet them or managed them to avoid unwanted surprises), otherwise accept eternal frustration from being misunderstood and wallow in your victimhood. Steven Covey: seek first to understand, then to be understood. And if your relationship is really on the rocks, get a BITA marriage counselor. Or divorce and move on. The kids will understand. Really.

12 November 2012

Scope of change

When scoping a process improvement project I use this checklist to talk the customer though the various elements that might have to undergo change. 
What's does he/she want changed in the IT department? Will anything in the user organization have to change as well? Do the information systems also need to be changed, for instance the procedures or the documentation? Are we just talking about making process descriptions for (quality) managers or are the practitioners actually going to change their way of working, therefore entailing change of behavior? In which case we're also talking about changing habits and 'attachments'. Is the IT department introducing new services or repositioning itself, for instance as a business partner? Is the headcount going to change? Their knowledge and skills? Roles and responsibilities? Tooling? 
I strongly recommend using something like this so that you can start with a decent scoping. You'll probably run into scope change along the way but at least you've got a frame of reference to support the revision.