Other than not really understanding what information management is, the single biggest obstacle to information management at most organizations is the lack of a viable business case: If you can’t show your CXOs the money, they’re not going to support your efforts. They have a whole portfolio of projects to choose from that generate revenue, reduce costs or increase margins. If you can’t articulate how information management does one or more of these, you stand little chance of success.
Unlike a product that’s never been seen before or a cutting-edge marketing strategy, managing information more effectively is guaranteed to improve how a business operates. After all, organizations only do four things: manage financial assets, manage physical assets, manage human assets and manage information assets. Generating improvements to any of these things will have a significant, tangible impact on an organization.
The challenge, then, is in determining the exact nature of the impact information management will have and articulating its benefits in terms that make sense to executive leadership and will compel them to act, i.e., provide funding and support.
The best way to articulate the value of information management in terms a business leader would respond to is to adopt a relentless skepticism, to keep asking, “So what?”, until you reach a compelling answer.
The first so what question any executive with a checkbook will ask is, "How certain am I of getting a check in return for the money I’m going to spend?" In fact, the way these efficiency gains are articulated, there is no check coming no matter how much you spend on information management. All the executive gets in return for funding information management is a workforce that spends less time searching for documents, but what they do with that 12.5% of time we’ve given back to them is unclear. They may spend it taking lunch away from their desks, looking at Facebook or leaving earlier to be with their family—none of which gives that executive any hard dollar returns.
Step one in improving this business case is to spend time thinking about how to quantify what happens when we give workers 12.5% of their time back. One of the best things that can happen (from the executive’s perspective, of course) is to reduce head count because this is a direct and tangible impact to operating expenses. A close second is reallocation, i.e., moving resources from one area to another, which either saves the organization from having to spend money on new hires or shifts resources to higher value work (or both).
Unfortunately, in the case of our efficiency example, neither one of these is going to be a likely outcome of giving folks 12.5% of their time back, so we need to look further. After reducing/reallocating headcount, your next best option is to find examples of specific business processes that are being negatively impacted by the time employees spend looking for the information they need, such as accounts receivable, sales and customer service. For these kinds of business case justifications, you need to also calculate the amount of the improvement achieved. For example, determine what the rate of receivables aged over 45 days was and then gain agreement from your accounts receivable team as to the reduction they felt comfortable with based on better information management—the same would go for the sales and customer service examples.
Although we've only scratched the surface of making your information management business case more effective, hopefully you can see already how much improved it is over that initial save of everyone’s 12.5% of their time justification. If you’re looking for real-life examples for such business cases, join me at Connect-IT in Greenwich, CT, where we will dig deeper into finding real business value that your leaders care about.
JOE SHEPLEY brings more than 11 years of operational and technology experience to his consulting engagements at Doculabs, where he helps organizations get strategic around how they manage their information assets. He also serves as the co-chair of Connect-IT Conference, an event for business and IT leaders focused on content and document management systems and strategy. Follow him on Twitter @joeshepley.