The New Business Of Managing Information - A Process-Centric Approach

Tuesday, September 1, 2009 - 01:00

Process-centric information management ensures that critical business information is readily available, appropriately stored and easily located when needed.

The most successful businesses are process-centric - meaning they organize the achievement of strategic and tactical goals around standard, repeatable and actively managed business processes, providing predictable results every time. The Object Management Group has proposed a standard Business Process Maturity Model which organizations can use to measure the overall effectiveness of their processes and leverage as a tool in ongoing efforts to control costs, increase productivity and improve overall quality. Tying the management of an organization's information to the business processes that create, use and depend on it directly supports the goals of the process-centric organization.

What Is Process-Centric Information Management?

Process-centric information management is based on an organization's business functions and the associated processes that realize those functions. Understanding the information, the systems and repositories that hold the information and the points in each process that use, change or generate the information provides an organization with increased visibility into potential bottlenecks, opportunities for increased productivity and vulnerabilities such as potential security leaks or privacy breaches. In addition, this approach supports the identification of information of competitive value as well as information that an organization may be required to produce for regulatory compliance, reporting or litigation purposes.

Rather than start with a detailed but isolated definition of a particular type of information, process-centric information management starts by defining the business functions the organization performs. It then maps these functions to the specific business processes that implement them. This structure reflects the way the business actually works - which parts of the business interact with each other and how the information flows throughout the organization. The following perspectives offer further visibility into the organization's use of information.


What function or process the information supports;


How specifically that information supports the function or process;


Where the information is stored;


Who is responsible for and/or has access to that information;


Why it is created and/or retained and managed in the first place.

By looking at information from this process-based point of view, an organization gains an holistic picture of what information is critical to manage and of how to manage information across the enterprise, not just within individual functions or departments. A process-centric information management program is more efficient , embedding the management of information directly into the appropriate business processes. It is more effective , enabling users to find the information they need more quickly and easily. Finally, process-centric information management enables greater compliance particularly when an organization is faced with a broad ediscovery request. The ability to narrow the universe of potentially responsive information by searching only those information sources related to the processes in question can significantly reduce ediscovery time and costs as well as increasing the accuracy and completeness of the response.

How Process-Centric Information Management Works

Process-centric information management maps high-level business processes to the information sources that support them. Building on this understanding, an organization can build a coherent, enterprise-wide information management program, wherein each element supports and depends on the others. Identifying and bringing together the key information management elements within an organization results in a standard, streamlined, simplified information management program, which supports the goals of the organizations, leverages the value of the information, facilitates the completion of business processes and improves overall efficiency and effectiveness. This process-centric information management foundation can be used in many ways including the development of easy-to-implement records retention schedules; the automation of storage, retention and disposition functions as part of business workflows; and the documentation in an Enterprise Information Map of potentially responsive information for ediscovery or other requests.

The Value Of Process-Centric Information Management

The application and deployment of a process-centric approach to developing an information management program offers added value to the business in many ways.

Business Process

Core business processes support efficient operations and incorporate information management, including recordkeeping requirements, so that managing information and records becomes a routine part of conducting business. By looking at processes up front, organizations can identify opportunities to embed information and records management requirements into everyday business processes as opposed to leaving information management until the end or "after the fact."

Information

An organization's documents, systems, files, email, share drives, etc., contain its institutional memory. The process-centric approach to information management ensures that all key inputs and outputs created and/or received are clearly identified for each business function/process. Information is no longer isolated within specific departments or teams, with access restricted due to complex, detailed retention schedules, file plans, classification schemes, taxonomies, etc. This isolation often leads to unintended and uncontrolled duplication of information as multiple business units may need access to similar information. By comparison, the process-centric approach identifies information in a manner understandable across the organization improving information accessibility, collaboration and coordination by mapping information to familiar, everyday business processes, activities and tasks.

Policy

Insight into business processes offers an understanding of what people need to do to carry out their jobs and manage their information correctly. This in turn provides an organization with the opportunity to identify and review operational policies on a regular basis. In reviewing business processes and how information is created, used, managed, stored and/or disposed of within those processes, leads to regular and continuous alignment of policies with evolving operational, legal and regulatory requirements.

Applications

Business functions and related processes operate via systems and applications designed to fulfill operational needs, enable access to information, and allow application of records retention and other recordkeeping functionality. In identifying systems and applications which support business processes, an organization gains greater insight into the flow of its information, and the complexities and potential risks related to the "where, who and how" that information is handled, distributed, managed and stored.

Governance

Identifying key stakeholders and roles and responsibilities as part of a review of business processes provides insight into how people actually do business in order to fulfill the organization's mission. In addition, the process-centric approach maps common understandings and expectations of information creators, users, managers, etc., across the organization. This ultimately leads to greater user acceptance, willingness and opportunity to carry out information management responsibilities and greater compliance with requirements by ensuring that the management of an organization's information is integrated into its daily business operations.

Infrastructure

An organization's information management infrastructure supports ongoing business operations while meeting information and recordkeeping requirements. Reviewing business processes as part of the first step in developing an information management program identifies availability and use of hardware, software and storage media across an organization. With this, an organization can assess how best to maintain its information over the long-term and develop a proactive approach to migration and conversion in order to ensure reliability and access, authenticity and integrity of information over time.

Summary

In deploying process-centric information management, an organization marries its information to its business processes providing detailed insight into business processes, information, policy, applications, governance and infrastructure across an organization, not just within individual functions or departments. This integration streamlines and simplifies an organization's overall enterprise-wide approach to information management and results in greater user acceptance and a better understanding of information flows and relationships organization-wide. In doing so, an organization also increases its flexibility, adaptability and overall ability to react to ever-changing business, operational, and/or regulatory environments, a much needed characteristic in today's shifting and unstable economic climate.

Robert Kirtley is Managing Director, and Maura Dunn, CRM, PMP, and Lee Karas, MBA, are Directors, Legal Management Consulting, Duff & Phelps, LLC.

Please email the authors at robert.kirtley@duffandphelps.com, maura.dunn@duffandphelps.com or lee.karas@duffandphelps.com with questions about this article.