The Business Information Illusion

Seeing through to the reality and acting upon it

First published: October 2011

By Dale Vile

KEY POINTS

The pace of business today dictates devolved management and decision-making
Markets and businesses in today’s technology-enabled environment move too quickly for the traditional centralised management approach to keep up. It is therefore no surprise that when 123 senior managers from large enterprises were interviewed in a recent research study, the majority confirmed a need for local empowerment and decision making. This is the only way in which most organisations can achieve the necessary level of responsiveness across the business.

Distributed information needs aggravate an existing information problem
Years of piecemeal investment in IT systems to automate different aspects of the business has led to huge amounts of data spread across a myriad of data stores. Extracting meaningful insights has always been a challenge, but the increasing need to support local and distributed decision-making has put even more pressure on information systems and processes. Issues with the completeness, accuracy and timeliness of business data are now widespread, creating tangible risks and costs.

Technology can help, but a prerequisite for improvement is measurement discipline
While technology has arguably been a part of the problem, it’s also a key part of the solution. Modern information management and business intelligence technology has a lot to offer. However, measurement discipline is critical, as this provides focus and objectivity when it comes to how information is managed and exploited. One of the strongest correlations from our study, for example, was between organisational growth and the use of key performance indicators (KPIs).

But nothing much will change without senior management commitment and support
Most organisations will benefit from a more joined up approach to information management and exploitation, but the physical fragmentation of data is not actually the biggest challenge. The two most commonly cited impediments to moving forward are lack of information ownership and lack of process ownership. Third on the list is the challenge of disjoints and conflicts between business units. Senior management commitment and support is therefore critical, as without it, any improvement programme will get bogged down in funding and political issues. If executives see through the illusion and act on the reality, however, the organisation may be moved incrementally towards a corporate-wide information framework, providing significant long term gains without undermining short term goals.


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