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Information management is the collection, storage, dissemination, archiving and eventual destruction of information. Its goals are to:
- capture data accurately and consistently;
- develop usable information from raw data;
- maintain information securely and accessibly during its useful life;
- support effective decision making and communication.
Large amounts of data will be collected during the course of a project, programme or portfolio. The management teams need to take the raw data and generate information through analysis and interpretation. A typical information management procedure is shown below:
The creation of data starts as soon as the mandate is issued so information management procedures and responsibilities need to be defined early in the life cycle. These will usually conform to organisational standards, but any adaptations may be necessary for particular contexts such as regulatory or security requirements. The standards will be set out in an information management plan.
The initiation step will ensure the necessary resources are mobilised and IT infrastructure in place.
In the early phases of the life cycle data collection will focus requirements management and solutions development. It will then move on to the creation of management plans and delivery plans showing how the solution will be delivered. As the work progresses, performance data will be collected to support control.
It is important not to see standard document definitions as being fixed. One of the generic attributes of level 3 capability is that all documentation is based on organisational standards but has been tailored to suit the context in which it is being used.
Data must be collected consistently and accurately so that it may be transformed into usable information for the P3 management team and stakeholders. This is much easier if standard techniques are adopted to capture and analyse the data and standard documents used to present the resulting information.
P3 management methods such as those described by Praxis define a suite of standard documents and many organisations develop electronic templates to ensure consistency. Key documents will be subject to configuration management and the information management plan will define how information is classified and stored. Storage must be designed with accessibility, security and confidentiality in mind.
The expected distribution of documents will be set out in many relevant management plans with the stakeholder management plan being of particular significance. The timing of distribution may be set out in a communications plan and the information management system must be able to support this.
Most of the information on a project, programme and portfolio is transient, i.e. it is superseded with time. This does not mean it should be destroyed. Certainly for the duration of life cycle, superseded information should be archived in case it is needed in the future. This is particularly relevant in the case of contract documentation that may be called on in the event of a dispute. Organisational policies often dictate the period for which archives should be maintained and these will reflect statutory obligations in areas such as financial accounting.
Some information contains a different intrinsic value characterised by the lessons learned. Some material from the information management system will become part of a knowledge management system that enables individual managers to learn from others and the organisation to develop its capability maturity. It makes sense if these systems work in a similar and compatible way.
Ensuring that a project, programme or portfolio is capturing relevant data and maintaining appropriate documentation is an important part of the assurance function.
Projects, programmes and portfolios
On small projects, information management will be part of the project manager’s role and will probably be seen as something that takes time away from the important job of managing the project.
Documentation is a bit like insurance. Until it’s needed to solve a problem it isn’t missed if it isn’t there. How an organisation supports its managers in this area is a key indicator of its capability maturity. A mature organisation will have standards and resources in place to lighten the administrative burden, particularly on the managers of small projects, and will ensure that all project managers understand the importance of good information management.
Programmes, portfolios and larger projects will be able to justify additional staff to help with information management, often as part of a support office.
Programmes and portfolios need to address three particular factors:
- consistency of information management across all component projects, programmes and business-as-usual;
- co-ordination of information management across the programme or portfolio;
- distinguishing between portfolio, programme and project level information as appropriate.
Consistency is important for both data and information and requires a common system for recording and distributing data. This should allow individual management teams to have access to relevant information across the portfolio or programme to better manage their component part. For example: this would ensure that all projects in a multinational programme report costs in the same currency, using the same mechanism for calculating exchange rates. Without consistency it is impossible to aggregate information automatically to create an overall picture.
The portfolio management team is likely to have responsibility for both knowledge management and development of capability maturity. Since information management is closely linked to both these areas the portfolio management team must take a long-term view to ensure that good practice is embedded in the organisation.