Learning about Enterprise Information Management


Enterprise Information Management can be defined as the set of disciplines, technologies and best practices to manage information as an enterprise asset. EIM functions ensure high quality data is available, controlled and effectively leveraged to meet the information needs of all enterprise stakeholders, in support of enterprise goals. EIM includes the development and execution of plans, policies, standards, projects and procedures that maximize the value of information assets. EIM provides a semantic layer that is implemented across the enterprise, not just for a single application or IT project. Effective EIM can achieve significant business benefits in lower operational costs, higher staff productivity, supply chain efficiency, customer service and loyalty, and better informed decision making.

But how do you learn to be an EIM professional?  How do you make sure the next information system you develop begins with the proper attention to the data and information that is essential to a robust and manageable system?  How do you learn to deliver the value inherent in the data (meta data); who can teach you how to develop a business intelligence environment that can take advantage of the data residing in your legacy applications, or how to create and sustain a data governance program?

EIM enables people to discover, analyze, define and standardize the discrete facts required by the business to conduct its activities and to capture and manage the information (meta data) about those facts.  An EIM professional must be concerned with both correctly interpreting the information needs of the business and providing organization and reusability for them.  To accomplish this purpose, the EIM professional must learn certain skills, techniques and rules, and apply those lessons rigorously and consistently.  How to learn them is a matter of some debate, but there are some proven methods for educating information management professionals that can be exploited and refined.

Many people learn about their jobs “on the job”, and Enterprise Information Management is frequently learned while doing it.   Some study a book or use computer-based education, others attend a public class, while still others learn by watching an experienced analyst perform what seems like magic and attempting to imitate the practices of the mentor.  Ultimately, the best way to learn and retain the knowledge and skills of information management is a combination of all these methods.  However, it is the order in which these methods are employed and the actual tools used that can separate a successful educational experience from one that teaches the student very little or nothing.

Enterprise Information Management education does not assume much technical systems experience; indeed, a novice can become an excellent IM analyst with no programming or systems administration experience.  However, Many EIM professionals agree that some exposure to programming and systems analysis concepts would be truly beneficial, and the best EIM-oriented curricula include some technology and architecture topics.  Additional and essential skills needed for EIM include abstract thinking, problem identification and solutions, conceptual design, user liaison, and communication. These skills are different from the skills developed in the programming and systems administration fields, but exposure to concrete thinking, hardware and software knowledge, and systems integration experience can’t hurt.  Basic requirements for an EIM candidate would include the proven ability to think abstractly and conceptually, to gather requirements from vague and often conflicting testimony, to demonstrate logical thought processes, and to relate seemingly disparate points into a cohesive whole.

Communication skills are essential for the EIM professional, even with the proliferation of documentation software, because much of the job involves translating and balancing multiple user requirements and documenting the final results from the user perspective.  EIM project results are usually presented to an audience of users and other technical professionals, so the ability to explain what was done, why and how is very important.

Most colleges and universities do not include Enterprise Information Management as a discipline, or even as a concentration area in their Computer Science or Management Information Systems (MIS) programs.  The efforts of the premier professional organization for information management, to develop and promote an information management curriculum are gaining attention, but the adoption process for the institutions is slow.  In the absence of formal, university-style programs, some consulting and training companies have begun their own programs in one or more aspects of information management education.

With the continual refinement of Enterprise Information Management concepts and techniques, the challenge of finding the right organization to provide a company with excellent education / training in the field is high.    The case situations presented in a well-developed course form a progression of degrees of difficulty and can ensure that the concepts of prior lessons are reinforced.  Whether one is a novice or a seasoned professional, third-party training frequently is the chosen option.

Training and consulting companies’ courses can vary widely.  There are several good workshops/seminars that can train a student in the concepts and techniques of data modeling, data warehousing, meta data management, etc.

In the final analysis, if Enterprise Information Management is to succeed as a robust function, companies must develop the professionals charged with the management of the data resource.  Each situation will dictate the path(s) the student will follow, but a multi-disciplined approach offers the best opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary for a successful Enterprise Information Management career.

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