Kaizen Infosource LLC

Why Aren’t CIOs Managing Information?

Recently Deborah H. Juhnke posted a blog, excellent by the way, about the fact that Chief Information Officers (CIOs) are not really doing what their titles imply. In fact, what most CIOs are actually managing is technology.

The post goes on to contrast CIOs with CFOs (Chief Financial Officers) and points out that, while “…CFOs are accountable for the financial stewardship of the enterprise,” the same level of accountability doesn’t apply to CIOs. Instead, “… CIOs accountability … stops short of information stewardship and instead focuses only on technology stewardship.”

This is an important observation (and blog worthy) because, generally, organizations have no one taking accountability for overall information stewardship (ownership). The lack of information ownership at an organizational level results in uncontrolled proliferation of information that threatens to exceed the organization’s processing and storage capacity. In essence the information begins to overwhelm systems, often referred to as “uncontrolled information growth.”

If the CFO of an organization focused only on the company’s financial tools, and ignored the fiscal policies and processes affecting its daily operations – not to mention its long-term financial direction, as well as its accountability to stockholders, owners, or other stakeholders – the company would begin to flounder and that CFO would soon be looking for another job.

Uncontrolled growth in a biological system is an illness. If I learned that I was sick – regardless of the illness – I would take immediate steps to obtain treatment. I would make this my highest priority and would want the treatment to start as early as possible to ensure successful eradication of the disease and a return to health. Delaying treatment would bring additional health risks, and added expenses, since a more aggressive approach for late-stage therapies would probably be the only remaining alternative. To ignore the situation, and hope it would disappear on its own, would be naïve and foolhardy, as well as extremely risky; the likelihood of dire long-term consequences would be high.

Uncontrolled information growth can cause health problems for an organization, too. Capacity of storage devices continues to increase. This should produce a cost savings, but the ever-increasing volumes of both physical and digital information continue to rise as well. A significant chunk of this increase in volume is due to duplicated documents, which includes multiple versions, earlier drafts, and copies of email attachments. Some estimates suggest that there may be as many as 40 copies of each document spread throughout an organization’s email systems, shared drives, individual workstations, mobile devices, and document management systems. This is a too-common symptom of inadequate information management.

The time and effort needed to sift through large volumes of information to find something specific, such as during eDiscovery, and to determine which version is the correct one to use, depletes the resources of organizations and reduces their profitability. eDiscovery vendors continue to enter the market because the need for this type of assistance is still growing.

Yet most organizations do not see this as a problem; rather, they react to each new high-priority search as a unique and urgent event requiring the skills of an emergency technician. They’ve become accustomed to handling the symptoms of an organizational illness in the emergency room, rather than assessing and treating the underlying causes.

When a biological system is battling an illness, other threats, such as injuries or stress, become more difficult to deal with. The body’s resistance — its ability to protect itself – is lowered. These added demands upon the body’s resources can further sap its strength, and threaten its eventual survival.

Failing to take remedial action in a timely manner may also have long-range effects on an organization’s continued existence. When high-priority demands for specific information arise, e.g., an eDiscovery request, a Government audit, or response to a disaster, an organization’s resources may be pushed too far to ever recover.
The information landscape of an organization includes the originators and users of information, its value and usefulness, and the policies, processes, and systems that guide its utilization and protection. Systems and tools should be the means by which the information is efficiently accessed and controlled. Tools without rules can easily exacerbate uncontrolled information and become weapons.

Stewardship of an organization’s information should include appreciation and consideration of the importance of all of these factors: this is what Information Governance is all about.

But the typical CIO focuses only on the systems and applications.

There is almost never a person at the executive level who is responsible for understanding the content and recognizing the value of the organization’s information, or for making information-related strategic decisions.
Information governance projects are usually initiated as reactions to a threat (a recent disaster) or a costly eDiscovery experience. Their focus is usually narrow and not part of a broader approach to managing information as a strategic asset. If the triggering threat or high-cost eDiscovery is an infrequent occurrence, the motivation for continued attention quickly dissipates and the project dies.

In a biological system this would be like treating the symptom but ignoring the underlying illness. Good governance can prevent the illness in the first place.

Without an executive champion who views Information Governance as an ongoing business strategy – and not as a short-term project – the organization’s uncontrolled information growth will continue to mushroom, increasing future risks and costs.

Should the executive champion for information governance be the CIO? “Information” is part of the CIO’s title. If the CIO is not managing the organization’s information, but only its technology, his/her title should more accurately reflect what is actually being managed. A Chief Technology Officer (CTO) should report to the CIO; the technology to manage information is critical to good information governance. But a focus on the technology, alone, is not adequately serving the needs of the organization.

When our biological systems are threatened with illness, we use the power of our brains to detect symptoms and make decisions about the proper course of action. Our brains enable us to search out the best corrective therapies, monitor our progress, assess changing circumstances, and guide future decisions about adjustments that may be needed.

Organizations need true Chief Information Officers to provide that same judgment, analysis, guidance, and information stewardship to the organizational body.

About Kaizen InfoSource

Kaizen InfoSource is the premier records and information management and information technology consultancy in northern California, with headquarters in Palo Alto, and offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Sacramento.  Kaizen’s team of consultants has over 100 years of experience in providing strategic, practical approaches to designing business process solutions, utilizing technology and developing information governance which provides a measurable return-on-investment for tis clients. Kaizen has extensive experience with working with both the private sector and government organizations.

For Further Information Contact:
Helen Streck
[email protected]