Over the past few weeks I’ve been engaged in some research for an internal project here at Castlebridge Associates. It’s an exciting project that I’m working on with a very smart cookie but it is still under wraps for a little longer.
Part of what I’ve been doing is looking at how people look for and find information about the management of information. What I’m seeing is a little disturbing. Despite our protestations as a profession that “Information is an Asset” we are not (with a few key exceptions) seeing the same bounce out of the “IT Ghetto” occuring when it comes to accessing and delivering information about how information should be managed as an asset. The management of information, for some reason, is still seen as an “IT thing”.
This is depressing as it is exactly the same logic I ran into a decade and a half ago when trying to get my (business-side) team trained in SQL and software testing so we could more effectively deliver on our stewardship roles over a large Information Asset repository (a single view of customer initiative). It is doubly unsettling as, in the past year or more, the majority of engagements and requests for proposal that Castlebridge Associates has engaged in have not come from the “IT” side of an organisation but rather come from the traditional ‘business’ side.
But books on Information Quality and Data Governance are still stubbornly categorised under the “Computer Science” heading. Training in these areas is often pre-conceived as being technical (as in “writing code” technical) in nature. But again, this is not the case. Technical skills are required, but the breadth of the Information Management spectrum is so broad that, particularly in the Information Quality and Data Governance areas, it is at least as important to understand business strategy, motivation, communications, human factors skills, principles of corporate governance, and principles of quality management. Indeed, I’d even go so far as to say that entrepreneurship skills are important, even for internal information quality/data governance practitioners in organisations.
Peter Drucker wrote back in 1998 that the source of competitive advantage in the Information Age would not be the T in IT but the “meaning and purpose” associated with the “I”. Meaning and purpose is not technology. Technology is a mechanism by which the meaning and purpose can be achieved. Meaning and purpose are business goals, business drivers, business constraints, and (dare I say it) philosophical and strategic questions.
So, here is the challenge: Where would you go in your local book store for a book about setting up and running a gardening business? Would you look in the section on gardening and plants? Or would you look in the “Start your own business” or “business management” sections of the store? Learning the how of hoeing does not automatically make you a guru of garden business management.
So why do we get guided to the “Computer Science” or “Information Technology” sections of our book stores (online and brick-and-mortar)? There are some exceptions. Amazon.co.uk has data quality books categorised under “Production and Quality Control” -a business category. Searches on websites of a number of publishers have books on these topics send the message that books on these topics are still “technical” publications.
Information is a critical business asset and it needs to be managed as such. However as long as the “doing” of data management is being filed away with learning and books about the “hoe-ing” of data it will be difficult to make the transition from technology thinking to management of meaning and purpose stick.