Thursday, October 13, 2011

Rethinking Your EIM Program

I've not looked at a Gartner Hype Cycle in a while, but I'm pretty sure if I did I'd find Enterprise Information Management (EIM) Programs heading into the Trough of Disillusionment. From what I'm hearing these programs are doing it tough and its not surprising.  EIM aims and value can be hard to articulate, I know I've struggled at times with ours . If you have an EIM program what's your elevator pitch? Phrases like improved decision making, better data management, and leveraging the data asset abound but chances are that many decision makers are coming to see those as little more than motherhood statements, particularly if there's been an EIM program in place for a while with few real benefits yet realised.  Although there may have been initial agreement around the problems to be solved and excitement around the promise of the program your sponsors may no longer really be signed up for the journey and are probably now struggling to see the way there.  

Perhaps it's time to rethink the strategy we take toward reaching our EIM goals. Rather than one big program maybe the use of strategic themes might work better. Use themes to chunk your nebulous program down to smaller quick projects which deliver toward and enable a common theme and focus the efforts and imaginations of people around a few key areas and projects at a time. It's easier for people to see value along the way yet (if you keep your eye on the longer tern prize and larger goals) still possible to get to the bigger picture by drawing synergies from projects along the way. Some of the themes I'm promoting right now include making information findable and believable, and the use of templates to tie information and process together and allow nimble reuse when new business initiatives arise. 

Using strategic themes also means it's much easier for people to "get it" and you, as the architect of the broader EIM initiative, will have better control over how they perceive what's important to do next. Equally importantly you'll have a better chance that they won't "get the wrong end of the stick" and become focused on the wrong things and put their energy into work that really delivers little to advance your true EIM aims.  Another plus is that it's more likely that you'll have people wanting to get involved (and hence get better people) if they can see what is going to be delivered in the smaller projects within the theme. 

If your team structure allows it then look to embed account managers in to the various business areas to get early signals and information about what needs are out there and weave these into the strategic theme sets where appropriate. Doing so will get people on the train.  Let the inertia build and then use that inertia to drive through those pieces of work which are less tangible - whether they be advancing data stewardship, building out the enterprise data model, or something else.

I believe this chunking and strategic themes approach will become more important across the coming 12 -24 months,  particularly if your company places more stock in initiatives with strong business cases and has an over representation of business improvement projects among the successfully funded initiatives and pushes those with less obvious or quantifiable benefits to the back of the queue. This approach will also give you the flexibility to be nimble and stay aligned with business strategies and priorities as they change rather than locking you in to a full year's budget cycle many months before the first work even begins. 

With this approach there are bound to be trade offs but, hey, at least you're moving forward and making (some) progress toward your EIM goals. And that's got to be better than the program being killed entirely. 

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