An interesting aspect of working in the information management field is the difficulty in explaining clearly and concisely the nature of the field. Many professions have a reasonably clear public profile, such as medical doctors, nurses, accountants, lawyers, and so forth. Information managers, on the other hand, often find themselves in the position of having to explain what they do. The same is true also for those of us who teach and conduct research in this area.
There is no standard definition of what constitutes information management (IM). The Government of Canada defines it as a discipline that directs and supports effective and efficient management of information in an organization, from planning and systems development to disposal and/or long-term preservation.
Wikipedia defines IM as [the] cycle of organizational activity: the acquisition of information from one or more sources, the custodianship and the distribution of that information to those who need it, and its ultimate disposition through archiving or deletion.
At the School of Information (SIM), we define information management as a people-centred approach to discovering, organizing, analyzing, representing, and accessing data, information, and knowledge. Effective IM gets the right information to the right people at the right time. I am undoubtedly biased, of course, but I think SIM’s definition captures the main functional areas of IM very well. We propose also the following areas of competencies for IM professionals:
- Information management leadership
- Enterprise architecture
- Risk management
- Information security
The Government of Australia has a very well-crafted information management standard that could be applied to any organization, either public or private. The standard outlines eight principles for the management of business information:
- Business information is systematically governed
- Necessary business information is created
- Business information is adequately described
- Business information is suitably stored and preserved
- How long business information should be kept is known
- Business information is accountably destroyed or transferred
- Business information is saved in systems where it can be appropriately managed
- Business information is available for use and reuse
The graphic below, from K.L. Scott & Associates, provides a good summary of IM processes:
This graphic shows the business value of IM to an organization: