Digital transformation and information management: enabling change

Even if information is at the very center of digital transformation, the link between information management and digital transformation is not made often enough. If we look at other elements at the center of digital transformation (people/stakeholders, processes, responsiveness, digital capabilities etc.) this is a pity.

After all, whatever the form of optimization, communication, collaboration, interaction, experiences, innovation and so on: information (or content or data) is a key success factor to make it happen (on top of human factors, leadership, processes, organization etc. which also require information).

In an interview on information management and digital transformation AIIM (association of information management professionals) President John Mancini shared 4 core challenges.

Digital transformation and the 4 key information chaos problems according to John Mancini
Digital transformation and the 4 key information chaos problems according to John Mancini (AIIM)

Information management professionals: assuming a role in digital transformation

Information is not just a key part of digital transformation as such. It also comes into the picture at each step along the road towards achieving both specific and enterprise-wide digital transformation goals such as improving digital customer experience, the de facto number one goal of most digital transformation projects today and improving operations, innovating or realizing competitive advantages to name just a few,

If you look at information in the broadest sense, the most often mentioned link between digital transformation and ‘information’ concern Big Data (analytics) and the IoT.

Digital transformation needs digital and digitized information. It requires data, connecting information silos, analytics and flexibility. As Atle Sjekkeland of AIIM emphasized at the AIIM Forum 2015, digital transformation is even a huge opportunity for information managers (and IT) to make the difference in their organizations.

The question is where to get started. And also where we stand today. Atle Sjekkeland quoted Thornton May, who leads the top membership tier at AIIM: “All organizations are on a digital journey – most have no map, no guide and bad shoes”. But that’s also an opportunity for information professionals: to help design the map and be the guide (not sure about the shoes).

Digital transformation goals and information management

In a review by Rob Llewellyn of the book Digital Enterprise Transformation I happened to stumble upon, I found the picture below where the crucial role of information becomes apparent in the digital transformation goals.

Digital Capability Framework – Digital Enterprise Transformation – Book Review
Digital Capability Framework – Digital Enterprise Transformation – Book Review

The digital transformation goals:

  1. Customer-centricity is about knowing your customers and offering the best information and/or gaining the right insights to serve their needs.
  2. An effective knowledge worker needs to be able to work with…knowledge and it doesn’t need further explanation where that knowledge comes from and that it needs to be stored, shared, secured and leveraged.
  3. Operational excellence: how else can you improve your operations and processes than by having at the very least the proper information and data to achieve it?

Regardless of the scope of a digital transformation project, data and digital information indeed plays a critical role. Along with the people and process aspects it is more important than the technological side of things.

People, processes and technology: where information and information management come in

At the same time, data, information, insights, knowledge, context, analytics and all other content-related elements are inherent in all three parts of the well-known people, process and technology/tools triangle.

People

Those knowledge workers need the right access to the right information to do their jobs in a digital economy.

Customers want to consult information on their terms. We need data and insights into what these terms are in order to serve that information. And of course we need to gather their information, digitize it if it’s not digital by nature and use it to get the right outcomes and steer the right processes. Collaboration, decision-making, a better customer-centric approach: having the right information, knowing where it sits and leveraging it, in automated ways, fast, easy and when needed in face-to-face interactions, makes all the difference.

Processes

Process automation is one of the key areas where digital transformation budgets go to.

Multi-channel capture to process is becoming ever more important. And it’s not just about the digitization of paper. When we talk about multi-channel capture we mean all information sources and all channels customers and stakeholders (workers, suppliers,…) use. The very fragmentation of sources and channels that, along with the sharp increase of data (yes, Big Data) and the variety of data formats drives digital transformations to begin with. Multi-source input, creating the data that drive the workflows and processes.

Just think about how one document or piece of information coming into an organization can effect multiple processes and departments. Now, imagine how it does in this information-rich and data-intensive digital business reality. No wonder intelligent understanding of most, if not all, (information) elements serving stakeholders will be integrated with BPM (Business Process Management) to drive decision making and predictive analytics, as Harvey predicts. Information to process and process to information and innovation, value and transformation: it’s all connected.

Paper is a good place to start thinking about digital transformation, because it is the Achilles heel of most organizations. Paper clogs up processes. Paper creates disruptions to smooth information flows. Digital processes require digital information.

Technologies/tools

The Internet of Things: what else is it than an umbrella term for technologies and applications leveraging data and information to feed processes and serve customer purposes, industrial goals or innovative experiences?

Process automation - improvements and updates sent to the car - Tesla case Atle Sjekkeland AIIM Forum - picture J-P De Clerck
Process automation – improvements and updates sent to the car – Tesla case Atle Sjekkeland AIIM Forum – picture J-P De Clerck

Take the example of (process) automation in the automative industry and Tesla – using the power of information in an innovative way – which Atle Sjekkeland used at the AIIM Forum UK. He reminded us how Tesla can push patches and updates to cars instead of having to do a recall. In fact, as Atle reminded, the Internet of Things is mostly seen as a way to get rid of non-value or low-value steps in processes (automation), certainly in the Industrial Internet of Things. where we find automotive but also manufacturing, healthcare, transportation and logistics, utilities and energy and so forth. Using information and those automated processes.

Needless to say virtually all other so-called disruptive technologies essentially revolve around data and information too: either using it in novel ways as we can do with the IoT, to share, create and consume it differently, to use it for other ways of working, to buy, book a taxi (mobile, location), to add intelligence to home devices, to disseminate and store it (the cloud), the list goes on.

Digital transformation offers tremendous opportunities for business. And for information professionals indeed. Yet, information management alone is not enough. It also takes (artificial) intelligence and activitation. You can read what that means in “Digital transformation: role and evolution of intelligent information“.