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Organizations are making concerted efforts to improve data quality through cleansing and enrichment. There is, however, so much data and information that it is often difficult to determine where to focus data quality efforts. While it is simple enough to state that information and data should be treated as companies would treat financial and material assets, the fact is that most companies do not even know the difference between data and information. Most collapse data and that which the data represent. A few leading companies have formal methods to gauge and improve how they manage and leverage their information and data. They are in the minority.
IT portfolio management can be applied to making sense of the morass of data and information that flood organizations. It enables organizations to focus data quality and decision support efforts on what matters by identifying the entities that are critical to the business, their key descriptors, and the information maintained on these entities. It could legitimately be argued that the information subportfolio is actually metadata for the entire IT portfolio. Practically speaking, a portfolio of data is . . . impractical! Anything put into the information subportfolio, by definition, is information, making the information subportfolio ethereal and circular. Thus, the underlying theme of this book can be applied to make the information subportfolio both real and of immense value.
Objectives for IT portfolio management must be defined and attainable. These objectives must then be attained pragmatically. If the organization is awash with data stores, these data stores can be rationalized with IT portfolio management. If the organization is awash with reports, often referred to as information products, these reports can be rationalized with IT portfolio management. Data about the “information” that is the crux of the objectives are collected and compiled into information using the same IT portfolio management process that is used for project and asset portfolio management.
Those who have ventured into the information subportfolio through IT portfolio management have generally collected a list of the key entities that make the organization tick. These entities are usually smaller and simpler in nature than might
152 CHAPTER 4 IT PORTFOLIOS AND THEIR CONTENT IN CONTEXT
be imagined. They consist of the basics—customer, employee, product, service, and a handful of basic descriptors of “things” that require tracking and decision support. For example, a multibillion-dollar U.S. retailer distilled the number of key entities that must be stewarded into 26 items. These 26 items were assigned basic attributes (e.g., name, description, synonyms) and mapped to other subportfolio items that rely on these entities (e.g., applications, processes, people). What became apparent in this instance was a lack of good stewardship with information. The most critical entities were tracked in multiple systems. No conscious coordination existed. No ownership existed. This enabled information management principles to be created. This enabled data quality efforts to be focused at the root cause.
In another instance, the key entities were collected in a portfolio view and assigned value based on the value ofthe processes that relied on that information and the costs to maintain that information—activity-based costing was applied to entities to provide an indication of their value. This enabled the organization to align the amount and types of effort stewarding the information to the relative value of that information. Other organizations that truly provide information products can assign actual value to the information products and fundamentally apply a BCG-like (i.e., Boston Consulting Group) portfolio management approach. Greater focus can be directed to those information products that will be providing greater market share or revenue. Information products that are mature or declining in market share or revenue receive less focus. This same rationale can be applied to internal information products.
The IT information and data portfolio helps management understand what entities must be monitored and how. Management can identify the value drivers behind information and data and direct the level and type of stewardship that must be given (e.g., accuracy, reliability, security, timeliness, integratability). The information and data portfolio helps management define the benefit of a specific unit of information or the contribution to revenues or margins, carrying costs/unnecessary inventory, latency, costs to obtain or generate that unit of information, as well as the costs to store and maintain it, and leverage and assimilate it into operations. Management can define key criteria and weighting factors that can be used within the entire IT portfolio. Management can optimize the benefits and minimize the risks associated with information and data (e.g., how information can flow more readily through information supply chains from the place where it is captured or generated to where it can be leveraged to optimize or maximize certain business processes). The stages to build and execute the information portfolio include: