>Obstacles to Information Sharing and Enterprise Architecture

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Here is the target architecture for information sharing:

An interesting document I read presented these five steps to architecting data and making it into useful and usable information for the organizations and its end users:

  1. “Request the dots”—identifying and requesting data from the producers of data
  2. “Get the dots”—capturing data through manual and automated systems
  3. “Find the dots”—discovering needed data and having access to it
  4. “Connect the dots”—processing the data into information by aggregating, processing, and integrating it
  5. “Use the dots”—utilize information for enhanced decision making

And here are the major obstacles to finding, connecting, and using the dots, a.k.a. information sharing in our organizations:

According to the Association for Enterprise Integration (AFEI), Information Sharing Working Group, 15 January 2008, “There is a human predilection to guard what is ours. The information we hold and the resources we use to create it are no exception…[moreover], individual agencies/organizations are not motivated to treat information as a shared asset.”

Here are some other disincentives to information-sharing from a program manager’s perspective:

  1. “Charity work”—“First, to a program manager, information sharing looks like ‘charity work.’ Sharing information beyond the scope of the program costs money, but is not directly accretive to the mission of the program.”
  2. Elevated risk—“Information sharing poses a risk in the sense that it creates the prospect of uninvited critique, review, evidence for litigation, and so on.”
  3. Standards cost time and money—Building to common standards for information sharing can be costly to a program; the standards may be more complex to implement, may require additional level of testing, and certification of compliance.

Perhaps, this statement sums up best the information sharing problem at the project level: “Remember, a program manager is incentivized to deliver on time and on budget per customer requirements. His/her tenure may be two to five years [for a project]. The fact that the systems they manage may last 20 years and may be difficult to integrate in the last 15 of those years is not a compelling argument for a program manager to change his/her behavior.”

The way to overcome information hoarding is to develop rock solid Information Governance, so that the decision making and management of information is taken out of the hands of the program and project manager and is put into the hands of Information governance boards, communities of interest, and information stewards.

“The governance framework must articulate the accountability and authority promote standards and guidelines; ensure a consistent well-defined approach, processes and procedures; adjudicate disconnects; establish legal and policy enforcement; and use performance measures to ensure progress towards achieving information sharing goals.” (DoD Information Sharing Strategy, May 2007)

Information is an enterprise and national asset. Shared information is valuable because it is captured once, but is “used any number of times, by any number of users.” (AFEI)

To maintain its value, information must be kept current, accurate, complete, be easy to understand, and readily accessible; this is quality information and it is valuable to our decision makers and enhances our ability to deliver on mission.

Only through active information governance will we be able to achieve this end state. It will start with changing the culture and mindset that currently dictates that information is power and information is currency, and questions why share it. And information sharing will be realized when everyone in the organization, from the top executives to the hourly workers on the front lines, understand, advocate, promote and demand that information sharing be the new norm; that it is the only acceptable and rational behavior for achieving mission success!