Through the Information Lens 

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking at QUT as part of their Information Management Masters course. I was asked to cover how we apply an information lens to information management problems – not exactly the most dynamic content, I know, but a topic close to our (professional) hearts.

The real challenge for me in preparing this engagement was breaking down what we do every day into bite-sized pieces that not-yet professionals could understand, without assuming that everyone has the background and experiences that I do.

Here are the basics I settled on as crucial for information-led analysis activities.

Understand the types of information that matter.

There are many different ways to carve up information, but not every approach is always helpful. Identifying the best classification scheme that helps to make sense of a situation is a key activity. Some common classifications include:

  • Format of information: Structured, unstructured and semi-structured information
  • How information is used: Strategic, tactical and operational information
  • What security classifications have been applied: PUBLIC, UNCLASSIFIED, IN-CONFIDENCE, PROTECTED OR HIGHLY PROTECTED
  • Content type of information: e.g. people, assets, property, finance.

Have an information management reference model to refer back to.

Information is intangible. This often makes it hard to identify and grasp. If you have a reference model for the activities that are performed on information – an information management model – this allows you to define problem areas and focus on issues without getting distracted.

Take a lifecycle approach to understanding how information is used.

GWI promotes understanding information management as a journey. Similarly, it’s helpful to understand where in the lifecycle information is being used. As with an information management reference model, this allows you to define the scope of the problem and provides focus.

Identify the governance structures that are in place relating to information.

The governance structures in an organisation help you to understand how decisions are made and who can support your efforts. Without knowing this, there’s a risk you will recommend something that the organisation isn’t ready for, or that all your efforts will fail to find a sponsor.

Of course, each of these needs to be applied in a way that considers the organisation’s culture and current strategies. Done in a pure, “best practice” vacuum, IM will not deliver the full benefits that it promises.

It’s always good to go back to basics and think about the foundations that underpin the work you undertake. Student lectures are a great place to do this – and it’s a good chance to give the next generation of information professionals a head start on the skills that matter in this space.

Dr Vanessa Douglas-Savage

Consulting Director