Every business leader wants business assurance. It’s essential for success. In fact, their business, and their career, depend on it.
The problem with knowing whether you have business assurance is that the things that undermine it can often be unseen.
What you will see are figures and reports that are inconsistent or unreliable, IT projects that blow out budgets and schedules or that don’t actually deliver the environment and functionality required, money spent to solve problems that never get solved, miscommunication or untrue information communicated internally or externally and, most worryingly, issues of legal, regulatory or reputational risk.
We’ve spent decades helping large scale organisations (banking, insurance, telecommunications, pharmaceutical, government, education) figure out why these kinds of issues arise and putting in place the management and governance to ensure they don’t happen again.
And we’ve learned one thing for sure – it’s almost always an issue of poor business information management (and no, we don’t mean data management).
Everyone understands that their business generates data. You either collect it from customers, acquire it through conducting your business or obtain it through purchasing or generating it.
When you and your team take that data and create reports, outputs, readings, metrics, figures or any other information that has valuable and meaningful significance for your business, we call that business information.
Great quality business information is what you need to make great business decisions.
Businesses generally think a lot about (and spend a lot on) the management of their data collections (such as software, security, hardware and IT staff).
But investing in the management of your business information is just as important to the long-term security of your business. Good business information management will ensure your business information is secure, understood and used correctly, communicated clearly and does not leave you at legal, regulatory or reputational risk.
Several factors contribute to poor business information management.
Business leaders who blame and shame. The problems senior business leaders see are usually just symptoms of much deeper systemic issues in their business. Poor leadership in this scenario exists when a leader demands someone resolve the symptom he or she can see, seeking to find who’s to blame, and then digs no further. This is likely to have resulted in staff finding work-arounds and inefficient but necessary processes, that appease the leader but do not resolve, or even address, the real cause of the problem.
A much more effective leader engages in the challenge of problem resolving, seeking to understand the root causes. This requires that he or she develop an environment where identifying issues is encouraged and seen as a positive thing for the company.
To achieve great business information management, organisations need leaders who accept their role in ushering in change, leading by example in their language, values and approach, as the organisation moves into an era that values quality business information.
The blame and shame approach undermines the very principles needed to ensure the information you’re using to make your decisions is reliable, high quality and issue-free.
We wrote a blog about great leadership (read it here) because it’s such an important feature for organisations wanting to improve business assurance.
Siloed business function areas. In large organisations, this is almost impossible to avoid. But it can equate to massive profit leakage, doubling up business information creation and huge discrepancies in the figures and metrics between functional areas, just to mention a few outcomes.
This can be putting the business into legal, regulatory and reputational risk as well as costing you income and growth potential. Communication between your functional areas is that important!
It’s all a result of poor business information management and we’ve seen all of these issues, and many more, in our years consulting in business information management. You can read some case studies here.
Assuming information issues are a data problem. Information and data must be managed differently and by different teams, because each is driven by different elements. Your IT division should have your data covered. They ensure you have the tools, security and functionality you need to collect, store and use that data successfully. That’s what we’d call data management.
But it’s business staff that should be handling your business information management. It’s business staff who are creating it, storing it, using it and keeping it secure. They must drive the design and implementation of business information management. A data management approach will not be successful – we’ve seen it time and again.
Driving business information management change from too low in the organisational structure. For business information management to be successful, it takes everyone on the team to make it work. And it means change. We know most people will only change in ways they have to change. So if the implementation of business information management isn’t seen to be coming from the very top of the organisation, chances are there will be low compliance.
Again, this underscores the need of top-tier leaders to recognise their role in instigating and maintaining change across the entire organisation. The language and priority of business information management at C-Suite level is essential to ensure success in this endeavour.
With best practice business information management in place, you’ll have confidence that:
We build business information management on four foundations:
In the meantime, why not connect on LinkedIn here?