Securing Information Assets: The Great Information Game

In today’s competitive environment, organizations succeed or fail based on how well they manage information. To address this reality, organizations spend millions, if not billions, on securing their information advantages. New information technologies and methodologies are adopted, while old ones are dismantled or upgraded. To win, the information manager must constantly seek to outperform his or her competition. How does he or she do it? Acquire the best new technologies, hire the most intelligent information professionals, and continuously keep a watchful eye on the future. But wait, does having the best information, the best information systems, and the best information professionals, really pay off? Is there victory in sight? Or, is this just a continuous game with no clear winners?

If one accepts the viewpoints raised by Nicolas Carr in his Harvard Business Review (Carr, 2003) article and book, IT Does Not Matter (Carr, 2004), no victory will be achieved. Carr suggests that IT managers are squandering their organizations’ resources to keep their systems and processes current. Any thought of IT-enabled business value or competitive advantage is foolish. But are we all fools? Why do we spend millions trying to manage business information resources?

I had the good fortune of leading a global strategy consulting firm that specialized in helping our clients secure information advantages. I found, to my surprise and repeated dismay that very few organizations treat their information resources as information assets. Treating an artifact as an asset versus a resource is not a trivial distinction. Resources can be purchased and sold in the marketplace. They are used as inputs to get work done. Assets, on the other hand, are things that organizations care deeply about. They are not simply the inputs into the decision process; they help govern the whole decision-process. The value of an asset is determined by market forces. Assets can make us a superior competitor and help us secure, and retain, advantages.

Visualize your favorite football team. Are the players resources or assets? The wise football manager knows that some players are resources, while others are assets. Every football team acquires resources on a regular basis; however they acquire or craft assets, every few years. Why? Assets take time to develop (e.g. think about the years that go into training a football player) or are very costly (e.g. think about transfer prices to move premier players across clubs). Resources, on the other hand, are used to fill gaps, and get things going. These are given less consideration. A player could have been acquired as a resource, and then eventually work his way into becoming an asset. These transformations are rare, and when they do occur, a football club has gotten lucky...

If interested in reading more, please drop me an email. The above is an excerpt from an article under review for publication…

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