Client or risk? Where should information management focus

PHOTO: Kyle Glenn

A year ago, AIIM (the Association for Intelligent Information Management) surveyed its members, asking them how they would rate our collective attempts at information management. The answer? ‘C’ — an indictment of our decades of effort to take information management seriously.

AIIM released its latest report a few weeks ago to align with its AIIM 2022 conference in Denver. Even if you’re not a member, you can check out the “State of the Information Management Industry” here.

This year’s report builds on many of the findings of last year’s report. A major factor in the C grade last year was the fact that there are still very few organizations where a senior executive is given enterprise-level responsibility for information – to generate or collect, to manage it, to ensure it is stored or disposed of appropriately, etc. Does this perhaps speak to you?

I know of at least a few organizations that have an enterprise-level leader, an actual chief information officer, if you will. These organizations are quite advanced in their management, use and enhancement of their information, and remain few and far between. AIIM therefore drew some conclusions from last year’s report which it took into account in this year’s research and questions it posed to members, to see if we could find out how we could actually do advancing our industry and our support for our organizations.

Information management is about the customer

The fundamental difference between organizations stuck in the status quo and those that have made progress is a shift in mindset to focus on the customer. Now, I must point out that, in this view, the customer can be an external consumer of products or services or an internal consumer. In other words, depending on the context, if you’re in information management at a bank, the customer could be Joe Blogger logged in at home, using a mobile app, or who came into a branch to apply for his card. credit, or it could be Jane Doe who is behind the counter at said branch, taking the call to the call center or working from home answering Joe’s emails. We could be very specific about this and say that there is an ultimate difference between customer experience and employee experience, but the fact is that they can both be recipients of customer-based information and services. information that brings value.

And there you have it, the V-word….

It is clear that our information management efforts must be focused on supporting the business and supporting the business processes that generate value for the customer.

I’m sure a lot of you are reading this and saying “well duh!” (I hope for you and not out loud). However, while I think we’ll all agree that we didn’t get into information management to simply manage information, many of us may have been sucked into the dark side of explaining to anyone willing to listen that to do a good job of managing information is to do a good job of managing risk.

AIIM President Peggy Winton emphasized this point in her opening address. Focusing on risk, compliance, and information management just to avoid problems and potential penalties doesn’t really add business value to an organization. As the report states, information management focused on risk and compliance is not going to “get things done” for the business.

I do not see a huge gap between these two points of view, it is rather the two sides of the same coin. But I recognize that perhaps the right executives, business leaders, and information management professionals should see it that way in the context of a given organization (more on that later).

Overall, information management professionals would do well to focus on information management activities that help the business generate revenue, not simply on reducing risk or increasing efficiency, but on tangible customer-focused business benefits. The conference closing keynote was a panel of five of the six Certified Information Professionals who contributed to the report. This panel discussed some of the ways their organizations have started to get things done by focusing on the real value that good information management can generate.

It looks nice? We’re all going to focus on the customer and start using insights to drive tons of value. Done and done. Nope?

Related Article: Information Governance Is Boring, But Necessary

The information governance dichotomy

I agree with the findings of the report and with Winton’s assertion that customer focus is key. However, I also think it’s not that simple. One thing that surprised me at the AIIM conference was the number of attendees who were records managers or had job titles aligned, the number of vendors offering products related to records management or governance of the information to be demonstrated, and the number of sessions that addressed these issues. two subjects.

This is where the dichotomy lies. As we talked about moving away from selling the benefits of information management and clinging to risk and compliance, a huge number of participants wanted to talk about, well, risk and compliance.

There is no easy way to avoid talking about risk and compliance in highly regulated industries. And in many of these industries, information remains a key product for managing risk and for illustrating compliance with industry regulators or government agencies. There seems to be a common view that if you focus on adding value (making money) but get it wrong on compliance, you risk being fined by the regulator, but that will work because you can pay the fine with all the money you earn. . What this doesn’t take into account is the reputational risk of your fine being spread across the internet, and the resulting loss of customers, revenue, and market value (if publicly traded).

Information professionals must work with their business partners to find the right balance within the context of their organization. For example, for a nuclear power utility, the internal customer of information-based services should focus on security compliance and operational efficiency. For a large retail chain, the focus would be on gaining insights from customer behavior insights to drive more sales.

Related Article: What the Next Years Hold for Enterprise Content Management

A complementary approach to information management

However, if we view customer-centric and risk-centric approaches as two sides of the same coin, we can make the magic of information management work by considering both sides of the coin. whole. Perhaps an initiative driven by compliance requirements can also benefit the revenue-generating industry? Or can the customer-centric information management project for a business unit have positive side effects on document management?

information management

It is up to us, as information management professionals, to work across borders, to help bring together multidisciplinary teams, to build bridges, to mend fences and to use all other well-abused tropes to help our organizations achieve their business goals. If you cannot develop an information management strategy that is completely in line with organizational strategy at the highest level, via an executive sponsor, then aim lower at the business unit, operating group or even at the level of a specific team. Information management professionals must work hard to understand the business, find the subject matter experts, and build the right relationships. Understand your trading partners’ goals, and if risk and compliance aren’t important to them, go with the flow. But at the same time, keep the lines of communication open to records managers and other information governance professionals, and see if you can make the magic happen.

In the end, good information management must serve the customer, but also the other stakeholders by allowing both the creation of value and good governance. Make yourself indispensable by becoming a sought-after facilitator, who can bring their expertise in information management to solve the problem, whatever it is.

Jed Cawthorne is Senior Product Manager at NetDocuments. He is involved in product innovation and management and works with customers to make NetDocuments even more phenomenally successful products.