The Information Agenda

Philip Howard

Written By:
Published: 8th October, 2008
Content Copyright © 2008 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.

There is an interesting analogy to be made between the delivery of information and motor manufacturing. In the case of that latter you start with raw materials. Those raw materials are processed, transformed, assembled and subject to quality control, with the result that a car is created for delivery to the user. In the case of information you start with raw data, which is processed, transformed, assembled and subject to data quality, with the result that trusted information assets are then delivered, in context, to the user.

However, not all motor manufacturers are the same. The user experience of driving a Mercedes is very different from the user experience of driving a Lada, which has historically been infamous for its poor quality cars and famous for the number of jokes about them (for example: "what do you call a Lada at the top of a hill? A miracle). And this difference is the result of good design, the fact that Mercedes is meticulous about monitoring all of its processes, and superior quality control, amongst other things.

In information terms the problem is that most companies are producing Ladas. Yes, you would like to be a Mercedes, but given that you are actually a Lada how do you go about being a Mercedes? Or, for that matter, a Ford?

It's not easy. Actually, it is not that the various issues to be resolved are that difficult to identify—governance, data quality, master data management, ETL (extract, transform and load) operational BI… yadda, yadda—we know all about those. But putting all those considerations together and treating them in a coherent way, with the strategic goal of producing, if not a Mercedes then at least a vehicle that is fit for purpose, is hard. Which is why IBM has introduced its Information Agenda.

In this context, IBM's Information Agenda offerings help you identify and implement a strategy that is aligned with your broader business strategy and that will take you from producing a poorly coordinated series of parts that don't work well together (a Lada), to a complete vehicle focused on your target market and price point (a Ford or Mercedes).

The Information Agenda itself has four components, of which two are industry specific and two are generic. In the case of the former, IBM is offering Information Guides and Workshops that are tailored to specific industries, and Information Accelerators, which include various (200+) industry-specific assets such as data models, roadmap templates and so on. Some of these assets, for example Workforce Planning, are cross-industry assets.

The other two components of the Information Agenda are services to help you build Information on Demand Competency Centres and what IBM is calling Foundational Tools. These last consist of several tools that have previously been bundled into other environments. For example, Information Analyzer (which provides data profiling) and Business Glossary were both bundled into Information Server. Also within the Foundational Tools are Metadata Workbench, FastTrack and Data Architect. In other words these are the tools used to understand your information environment, in context to your specific Industry. This is, if you think about it, where you need to start if you want to become a producer of good (or better) quality cars.

When IBM first showed the Information Agenda to me they asked me what I thought about it. I told them it was about time. The truth is that business needs to stop producing Ladas and focus more on higher quality. Whether you build Fords or Mercedes will depend on the company, but in either case you will need help to get there: I am pleased that someone is finally doing something about it.

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