TDWI Keynote: Larry English Takes on the Status Quo - InformationWeek

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2/17/2008
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TDWI Keynote: Larry English Takes on the Status Quo

Organizations that aren't managing information as a resource are wasting as much as half their IT budgets "moving data from database A to database B." This troubling perspective, from expert Larry English, kicked off this week's TDWI World Conference in Las Vegas. Here's the keynoter's advice on the right approach.

You and your firm, Information Impact, have been pointing out the shortcomings of prevailing technologies and practices for two decades. What's the key message you'll deliver at this week's TDWI World Conference?

The key theme is that we have to apply the same management principles to information that we apply to our other resources, such as financial resources, people resources, facilities and products.

What are the basics of resource management?

The resource management life cycle begins with planning and then moves to acquiring the resource, applying it — that is, putting it to work — and then maintaining it. The final activity is to dispose of the resource when it's no longer needed.

So how is all of that applied to information?

We have an enterprise mission — the activities and processes of the enterprise — and we have to plan the information requirements needed in an information model. What's interesting about planning is that it actually includes the development of applications and information models. We have to [plan] all the way through to implementation of those components, applications and databases before we can start acquiring the resource and using it effectively. The acquire stage involves the activities that create data. We have to capture data with the end goals in mind. That is, who are the downstream customers for this information and what do they need to know?

This is clearly not the way information management is currently practiced for the most part.

No, we have a fundamentally broken application development process today. Most every application development methodology focuses on a project-by-project, department-by-department approach... The databases that are being built are generally not sharable, enterprise-focused databases.

Are any companies actually putting these principles to work?

Yes, there are a number of companies including Kirin Brewery in Japan, Teck Cominko, a coal mining company in Canada, and Aera Energy in California. Aera is an oil production company that pumps oil out of the ground for Exxon-Mobile and Shell. I first started working with them in 1999, and that very year they issued three, senior executive-level strategic initiatives. One was total process reliability, which is about maintaining the equipment in the oil fields so there's no unscheduled downtime and no environmental accidents.

The second was a strategic information planning initiative to understand — against the backdrop of the mission of the organization — what their core values were and what information they needed to know. They also sought to understand the process areas that developed and supported the automation of work, and the capturing and application of information.

The third strategic initiative was on information quality management. They have successfully implemented that and are now sharing information across their enterprise. They've implemented more than 50 percent of the [data] entity types that have shown up in their information models. Each of those is sharable by any activity and any knowledge worker who needs access to that subject area.

How has this benefited Aera?

They have reduced their cost of applications and they have increased the availability of quality, just-in-time information. They achieved their results by implementing two component parts: One is an effective information resource management discipline and the second is information quality management.

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