In this era of horizontal organisations, collaborative computing and cross-functional work teams, many companies are taking a closer look at how information flows throughout the organisation, where it resides and how an employee in division B would find a piece of information even if it lived across the country in the brain of a colleague in division C. The new corporate challenge is to manage the elusive and intangible asset of organisational knowledge, making sure that raw data is transformed into business innovation through interpretation by "knowledge workers".
Many companies try to nudge performance up through technology, using workgroup software to spur internal information flow and the Internet to keep abreast of outside events. But technology alone is at most only half a solution. Companies intent on using information to its highest possible function must also address human behavioural issues around the area of information gathering and sharing. People will always be an organisation's first, best source of information, so CIOs should pay less attention to defining their companies' information architectures and more to understanding their information cultures. Sure, that understanding doesn't come easy, but here are some things to think about.
- Given the vagaries of human nature, consider how people really use information in your organisation.
- Given the reality of structural and budgetary constraints, consider how much your organisation can credibly change.
- And, given the difficulty of developing and modifying systems, consider how your IS can realistically support that change.
Organisations tend to have a very narrow view of what it takes to create an information environment. Companies would like to have an environment where people share information across the business processes, or use information to make decisions. But the way organisations tend to attack these problems is by throwing technology at them. "Once we get that database in place, we'll have that information environment we want." "Once we get Lotus Notes, we'll be doing information sharing." But there are so many other areas that are involved in creating an information environment. CIOs have got to learn how people work and how they view information. And then they've got to teach them to understand that information and use it intelligently.
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