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1.6 Best Practices in Driving Enterprise Information Planning Success

The Information Agenda development process is often challenging, with each situation requiring its own balance of structured approach, sensitivity to company culture, and the meshing of strong personalities and opinions from diverse teams. Based on IBM’s experience working with multiple organizations, the following sections discuss best practices and considerations for how to develop and deploy a successful Information Agenda.

1.6.1 Aligning the Information Agenda with Business Objectives

The top priority in developing an Information Agenda is ensuring that core business objectives drive the agenda. At a high level, these business objectives might be strategic in nature, such as revenue generation, competitive differentiation, cost avoidance, efficiency, or performance. At a line item or feature level they might be described in terms of “being able to mine voice data” or “access to sales data in real time.”

It is also important to be realistic and practical in defining the Information Agenda. Most leaders are wary of “boil the ocean” type strategies that appear too expansive and exhaustive to be practically implemented. Along these lines, being realistic with expected returns can be important when setting expectations. When a projected benefit looks too good to be true, it might be viewed with skepticism and disbelief. Lastly, pragmatism in the Blueprint and design approach might require choosing tactics that fit the organization’s strengths, even if it does not represent leading-edge thinking within the industry.

1.6.2 Getting Started Smartly

There are typically multiple entry points, competing priorities, and methods for getting started. Sometimes a case for an Enterprise Strategy finds its start in a specific area, such as data quality or risk management, that when examined, is revealed to be endemic of a larger organizational data issue. Other times, the process starts from a strategic enterprise level, where the strategy is based on goals such as global integration, enterprise agility, and competitive differentiation. Regardless, the smart Information Agenda should ultimately take a strategic purview and be supported by advocates for improving the overall business, not just changing the technology, while at the same time identifying opportunities for deriving short-term benefits. It is essential to garner support and advocacy by cross-departmental or cross-functional leadership that includes and spans beyond IT. Although the CIO is a likely candidate to lead the Information Agenda initiative, he or she should have the full support of other top leaders in understanding, championing, and funding the Information Agenda process.

1.6.3 Maintaining Momentum

Constant, quality communications with the right stakeholders is an important way to ensure the project stays on track. Communication should be bi-directional, with the team accepting and responding to stakeholder input and reporting results and decisions.

Since the Information Agenda process will involve many different types of stakeholders, it is important to communicate in the various ‘languages’ they speak and understand. For example, a CEO might think in terms of competitive differentiation and shareholder value. The CFO will look for hard numbers and speak in financial terms. A CRM or marketing leader might think in terms of customer experience. The IT leaders think in terms of data and systems. Because of this, it is important to describe strategy in ways that engage these different audiences.

1.6.4 Implementing the Information Agenda

The Information Agenda is only as good as an organization’s capability to implement it. For the Information Agenda Roadmap to be successful, it must compel the organization forward toward the vision. At the same time, after the implementation begins, the organization cannot lose sight of the strategy. The vision, the Blueprint, and the value case must live on through the implementation as the “guiding lights” and “touchstones.” The ultimate strategic output is the Roadmap, as it is the short-term and long-term plan toward achieving the vision.

Lastly, a formal metrics and measurement program needs to be instituted and maintained. At the project level, milestones, schedules, and budgets should be tracked to ensure that the projects are executed on time and on budget. At a strategic business level, the value drivers should be monitored and quantified as the new Information Agenda operations come online.

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