Putting Information First
Last week, I was fortunate enough to be hosting a two-day event on cloud infrastructure and how it is impacting the way we are doing business. Fortunate, I say, not least because I had the opportunity to actually listen to the diverse set of presentations rather than rushing around preparing my own!
During the quite interactive sessions, one theme that emerged quite strongly was the importance of information. I know, this sounds pretty glib - who would say that information wasn't important? However it was the ways in which information would become more important that intrigued me.
First off, in the past we have tended to focus more on the systems managing information, rather than the information itself. The reason, for example, that organisations have ended up with multiple 'views of the customer' is because they have multiple systems, each of which manages an overlapping subset of of customer information.
One might argue that cloud-based models are making things worse, in that now we have multiple new services to contend with, each of which just adds to the problem. Equally, from a governance perspective the issues become more stark about whether service providers are competent, or indeed legally permitted to manage certain information types.
To exacerbate the problems, we have the joint challenges of information growth and increasing fragmentation of both sources and devices we use to view and manipulate information. Clearly, if we were putting information first, we haven't been doing a very good job.
What emerged across the seminars was not some general mantra about seeing information as a priority. Rather, it was the realisation about just how difficult this is, and how important it was to deal with the challenge head-on. How, precisely? The bottom line is to recognise that you can't control everything, so a first step - through classification - is to decide what information does need to be managed closely, and what is less critical.
This is less about seeing information as important, then, and more deciding what information is important. Not only is this a useful goal in itself (for reasons such as governance and risk), but it also provides a more workable starting point for dealing with related challenges of identity management. In a nutshell - if you want to manage entitlements between people and resources, it's a great help to know what resources actually matter.
When we think about such terms as 'information centric', then, it's worth remembering this is not about blanket statements, but ensuring that information priorities are set early on. As the creators of the Tower of Babel were to discover, any other way can only lead to madness.