What is information management?

Discover the importance of information management in modern businesses. Learn what information management is, its benefits, challenges, and best practices.

Belinda Walsh

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Belinda Walsh

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October 22, 2023
What is information management?

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The modern business runs on information. Emails, business proposals, vendor contracts, detailed process guides for internal workflows — all of these are part of the constant flow of information required to operate. The practice of information management has never been more critical, as the flow of digital documents accelerates worldwide, crafting an interconnected era of more and more information for knowledge workers interacting digitally.  

Effective information management can improve business processes, including helping organizations comply with regulations and reducing the risk of data loss. A robust information management process, built on solid technology and effective organization, will ensure business continuity and longevity.  

What is information management?  

But what is information management? In simplest terms, 'information management' (IM) refers to the processes and tools used to collect, store, organize, and share information within an organization. In business operations, 'information management' refers to the information lifecycle: acquiring knowledge, custodianship and distributing that information to those needing it, and disposing of that information through archiving or deleting it.  

Information management also refers to the level of control an organization has over its body of knowledge. The strongest of these business processes provide tight oversight for internal documentation and the flow of digital documents within the organization. It's essential to have information management processes for several reasons:  

  • Reduced costs – Storing information is expensive. Robust information management processes ensure that companies only store the information assets they truly need, reducing costs and retaining less unnecessary information.
  • Increased productivity – Information management allows employees to find what they need, when they need it, saving time and allowing work to get done faster.  
  • Improved compliance – Information management processes and solutions help organizations fulfill regulations more efficiently. Understanding where critical documents are and being able to provide them quickly can easily streamline compliance.  
  • Enhanced decision-making – Organizations with solid information management practices can make better, more strategic decisions with ready access to the required knowledge. This includes long-term planning as well as standard business process management.  
  • Gain a competitive advantage – Information management allows organizations to safeguard their critical and proprietary information from intruders, system failures, and natural disasters.  

Information management is crucial, especially in our modern era. Robust business processes have tangible benefits to organizations, including:

  • Increased efficiency and productivity: Information management can help organizations increase efficiency and productivity by making it easier for employees to find and access the necessary information, automating tasks and processes, and reducing waste and inefficiencies.
  • Improved decision-making: Information management can help organizations make informed decisions by allowing them to identify, collect, and analyze the data and information they need to make sound decisions. Additionally, information management can help organizations track and measure the results of their choices so that they can learn from their mistakes and improve their decision-making over time.  
  • Enhanced customer service: Information management can help organizations enhance customer service by understanding customers' needs and preferences and making it easier to provide customers with the information and support they need.
  • Reduced costs: Information management can help organizations reduce costs in several ways, such as by reducing labor costs, eliminating waste and inefficiencies, and avoiding compliance fines.  
  • Increased compliance: Information management can help organizations improve compliance with regulations and industry standards by assisting them in identifying, tracking, and managing the information they need to comply with these regulations. Additionally, information management can help organizations implement and maintain security measures to protect their information from unauthorized access or disclosure.
  • Enhanced reputation: Information management can help organizations strengthen their reputation by demonstrating that they are a well-managed organization committed to protecting the privacy and security of their customers' data.
  • Improved safety and security: Information management can help organizations improve safety and security by assisting them in identifying and assessing risks to their information. Additionally, information management can help organizations implement and maintain security measures to protect their data from unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification, or destruction.
  • Improved innovation: Information management can help organizations enhance innovation by assisting them to identify and share new ideas and making collaborating easier on new projects.

Information management can help organizations – both in the private and public sectors – improve efficiency, productivity, decision-making, customer service, costs, compliance, reputation, safety, security, and innovation.  

Information and knowledge management benefits drive substantial business value and potential competitive advantage in often crowded markets. Senior management would do well to examine the efficiency gains from better information management in their organization.  

Artificial intelligence is rising, and the volume of information created will increase. Due to this influx, business processes around effective information management will grow even more crucial. Implementing or enhancing corporate knowledge management and data governance can be a strategic differentiator. The companies that can find the paper documents or electronic documents they need when they need them have a leg up over disorganized, disordered teams.  

Common information management challenges

Effective information management has challenges, including the rapid growth in data volume. By 2025, it's estimated that 453 exabytes of data will be created daily. Collecting and storing the sheer amount of digital and physical documents and other information assets that corporations and public entities require for decision-making and core business operations is thus a significant undertaking.

Further complicating matters is the reality of data silos in the modern enterprise. Product management, engineering, development, marketing, and human resources departments typically have distinct file systems with limited access. These structures can complicate effective policies and visibility into data throughout the organization. Information handling across these silos is a significant challenge. A lack of visibility into these silos stymies record management at the best of times.    

Compliance with complex legal and regulatory requirements is another challenge facing information managers. When complying with security rules and other mandates, organizations must provide the correct information at the right time. This state of affairs necessitates enterprise content management that accounts for business changes in response to regulatory shifts. With data privacy regulations becoming more common, as one example, organizations need robust information and knowledge management to ensure that they can prove their compliance.  

A lack of awareness and training is also a significant challenge regarding information management. The best knowledge and information management practices are a combination of people, processes, and technology. Without adequate training in the defined information management practices and awareness of the practices, organizations will struggle to manage the flow of data and information effectively.  

Information management best practices  

There are a few essential best practices for managing information and knowledge in your organization, blending people, processes, and technology. Robust information management requires:  

  • Implementing a data governance framework Data governance involves managing the flow of data to the stakeholders who need it. It's defined as the collection of rules, processes, and role delegations that ensure privacy and compliance in an organization's enterprise data management. Implementing this framework allows you to manage the critical data and information needed for business operations.  
  • Using information security measures – Strong information management also requires strong information security. Deploying security tools designed to protect data, digital documents, and critical corporate knowledge through encryption, privileged access management, and restrictions on user permissions ensures that information remains accessible to the people who need it.  
  • Training employees on information management best practices – Employees need the training to understand information management best practices. Companies should ensure employees understand how to keep information secure while getting their work done and accessing data securely.  
  • Using information technology to automate tasks – Corporate information managers should leverage management software, information management systems, and tools to automate as much of their work as possible, including data categorization and inventory. Automating manual information management tasks will streamline workflows and ensure people can access the necessary data and information.  
  • Partnering with a qualified information management service provider – If you don't have the in-house expertise or resources to manage your organization's information effectively, you may want to consider partnering with a qualified service provider. They can help you develop and implement a strategy for information management and provide ongoing support and guidance from the lessons learned in previous projects.

These best practices can ensure a successful information management strategy. Implementing them requires project management at the level of senior business leaders to bring the rest of the organization in line with the strategic initiative. The practice of information and knowledge management is a corporate responsibility that can't be fully implemented without strategic planning from senior management.  

What Is Records Information Management?  

Records information management is a subclassification of information management that refers to managing corporate records through the entire information lifecycle from creation to destruction. The critical components of records information management are:  

  • Records classification – Classification allows organizations to understand each record and its level of risk.  
  • Records retention scheduleScheduling specific records to be retained for a set time ensures compliance with legal mandates.
  • Records storage and retrieval – Records information management includes storage and retrieval, allowing employees to find what they need, sometimes referred to as enterprise search.  
  • Records destructionThe final component of records information management is the destruction of records that are no longer needed.

Records information management can and should be part of any digital transformation efforts to ensure organizations have access to the data and knowledge necessary as they evolve organizationally. People skilled in library and information science often have these roles, given that they understand the taxonomy of storing information and knowledge in a readily accessible manner.  

The benefits of records information management for organizations

An effective records information strategy can offer an organization real benefits:  

  • Reduced risk of legal liability – Strong records information management allows organizations to retain what they need and show that they've retained it. This retention reduces legal liability because records managers can find their documentation at the moment rather than struggle to find critical information in the case of a legal situation.  
  • Enhanced compliance with legal and regulatory requirements – Records information management allows companies to maintain providence and stay audit-proof by showing that they comply with all data, document management, and document storage requirements. It also empowers organizations to prove compliance with all data privacy rules globally by ensuring they protect their customers' personal information.  
  • Improved efficiency and productivity – According to research, 19.8% of business time is lost searching for the information needed for work. Records information management processes and tools allow employees to find what they need without wasting time.  
  • Enhanced customer service – Organizations using records information management improve customer service through accelerated access to information. Customer support personnel can find documentation to help customers, and customers can even better use self-service portals to access what they need to solve problems.  
  • Protected intellectual property – Records information management allows organizations to protect their critical intellectual property accurately. These processes allow records managers to ensure IP is identified and secured appropriately.  

The future of information management

There are two crucial information management trends to focus on over the next few years: AI and data privacy. AI tools are exceptionally good at manipulating text and performing actions much faster than humans can. Data categorization, data inventory, and other activities are substantially more straightforward with an appropriately trained machine-learning algorithm.    

AI will likely be more common in records management for these rote tasks, allowing humans to take on the more complicated and strategic activities involved in managing corporate information. Automating things like tagging, managing an inventory, and other activities frees up substantial staff time.  

Data privacy and security are significant trends in records information management. As more data privacy regulations crop up globally and data security becomes more critical in the face of rising cyberattacks, information managers must be more aware of these additional requirements.  

Many privacy rules state that customers/citizens own their data and can request elimination from the relevant corporate databases. If records managers don't have strong enterprise content management practices that allow them to act on these requests readily, they could open the company to legal liability. These trends create new concerns for information managers to ensure that they can meet regulations and allow access to needed records while still keeping them secure.  

Investing in information management is a crucial business process, which substantially benefits the organization from a productivity and regulatory perspective. Ensuring that companies have a robust information management practice can, and often does, create real benefits and strategic advantages and allow organizations to succeed in a complex and fast-paced environment.  

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