You may think the most important person in your organization is the CEO or CFO. Or maybe you’ve read about the coming data deluge, and you think the most important person is now your CIO. While these powerful individuals certainly have the most influence over where your organization puts its efforts, the people most likely to determine whether those efforts succeed or fail may be the “information managers” that sit within various corporate departments. Why? Because without effective information managers, no one — not the CEO, CFO, CIO, CTO or anyone else in your organization — will be able to achieve their objectives or reach their goals.

An information manager’s task used to be relatively simple: maintain the latest version of a document, and distribute it to a published list of recipients. In recent years, however, the job has evolved to focus more on regulating the flow of information within and among offices, which is far more complex and technical, and requires a deep understanding of industry-specific project lifecycles, advanced flow-charting skills, document submission and delivery methods, and compliance requirements, including standards such as the ISO15489 guidelines on records management.

The significance of information managers to an organization goes much deeper, however. In overseeing the management of information throughout its full lifecycle — acquisition, retention, archiving, and disposal — each information manager works directly with, and has a significant impact on, every other key department and its project and information managers, including finance, human resources, legal, compliance, research, production, supply chain, sales and marketing, outside partners and IT. The rate at which work can be done is limited by the rate at which information is made available to those who need it. Thus, information managers not only affect how accurately and securely information is transmitted, but how efficiently as well. Not one of these groups has a ghost of a chance of fulfilling its mission efficiently if they don’t have immediate access to the latest and most accurate information.

If you still aren’t convinced that information management is complicated, don’t forget the “data deluge.” Research firm IDC (IDC Digital Universe Study, May 2010) has predicted that corporate data volume, which grew by about 50 percent in 2009, will grow by a factor of 44 over the next 10 years. Most people think that the significance of this growth is around storage capacity, processing power, and search algorithms that will turn raw, unstructured data into “useful” information, but once these problems are solved — and they are being solved today — we must still provide some new way for individuals and groups to use and share this avalanche of useful information.

Keep in mind that we’re not thinking just about people in one organization sitting at their desks and in conference rooms. Remote and mobile workers must be able to turn on the information tap at will, and information absolutely must find a way to flow in a secure and controlled way beyond the organization’s firewall. More and more companies are integrating partners from all over the world into both automated and non-automated workflows. Manufacturing and retail supply chains and large-scale construction project subcontracting are the most obvious examples, but the need for multiple companies to share information efficiently and securely to achieve business goals cuts across all industries, especially financial services, health care, and telecommunications.

How can your information managers ensure that the latest and most accurate information is available to the right people — and only the right people — 24 hours a day no matter where they happen to be or what organization they belong to? Here are some steps to take:

  1. Work with your information manager to define what “information-centric” means for your organization.In calling for a more strategic approach to managing information, a Gartner press release (“Gartner Highlights Four Innovation Forces in Information Infrastructure” December 14, 2010) recognized the changing role of information in an organization’s workflow and discussed the information-centric organization: “CIOs and information management leaders must … take a new approach by focusing on the value of information itself, rather than the value of information systems. This will require strategies and techniques for assessing the value and risk of information assets.” The release also noted that “Gartner believes that CIOs, information management leaders and HR professionals need to understand what kinds of ‘people’ changes must be made to create the next generation of information infrastructure.”
  2. Elevate the profiles of your information managers.Because of its technical nature, information management hasn’t been seen as sexy, but in the “information-centric” organization, information managers must have the ability to effect change throughout the company and coordinate activities with counterparts in other departments and at other organizations. It’s time for them to have a seat at the table.
  3. Adopt a solution to facilitate document sharing across multiple organizations.Designed for multi-party use, an online collaboration platform can ensure secure access to the latest documents for appropriate people inside and outside an organization. When hosted by a neutral third party, such a platform can protect the privacy rights and proprietary information of each participating organization, while allowing all participants to instantly view, track and distribute their files from any location and at any time, ensuring that everyone is always working with the most up-to-date information. Such an environment increases trust, reduces errors and conflicts, and increases individual and team productivity. When choosing a vendor, look for predictable costs and easy integration with existing project and document management system.Recent research I conducted across thousands of construction and engineering firms has shown that companies using an online information management platform to standardize review processes across projects were able to reduce approval times by 28 percent (source); and those using similar tools and best practice processes reduced response times to queries from subcontractors by an average of 43 percent, and by 67 percent for the best performers (source).In a world where your success depends on a myriad of internal and external stakeholders having immediate access to the latest information, it’s time to recognize the crucial role information managers play in keeping that information flowing. By giving them the knowledge and power to help shape your “information-centric” organization, you can provide every individual in every position in every organization with the information they need to be successful, thus increasing ROI across the entire value chain.

Author: Leigh Jasper, CEO, Aconex

Leigh Jasper is the CEO and co-founder of Aconex, the world’s largest provider of online collaboration solutions to the construction and engineering industries. Since establishing the business in 2000, he has played a leading role as the company has grown from a two-man team in Australia, to a global market leader with 400 staff in 38 offices worldwide servicing $260 billion worth of projects. The company services US$220 billion worth of projects across 65 countries. Its clients include AECOM, The Panama Canal Authority, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Las Vegas Sands, IKEA and McDonald’s Restaurants.

Source: http://allthingsd.com/20110712/the-most-important-person-in-your-organization%E2%80%A6is-not-who-you-think-it-is/?mod=googlenews

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