Illutas Innovation Briefing 2 – Information Agility

Keywords: #blockchain, #digitalisation, #information-driven agility, #smart enterprise,#value chain

The following is blog #2 in a series of Illutas innovation briefings: short, to the point explanations of innovative concepts, ideas and solutions around information management. Please contact us on info@illutas.com if you would like to know more.

Background

Business always needs information to function. Unfortunately, the business need and speed for change in their information requirements has always outstripped the information providers’ ability to deliver.  This creates continuous tension between business and IT. This is seen everywhere: in budget constraints, in the role and position of IT in the organisation and in the required adaptation of business practices to IT realities.

Sometimes, when IT is instrumental and fundamental to the business model, such as is the case with companies like Facebook, Twitter and AirBnB, this situation is (partially) turned around, or at least the tension is reduced significantly.

But in many other cases, business, to a larger or smaller degree, lack the information support that they need. This, in turn, drives IT onto a continuous quest to improve and reinvent themselves and remedy this situation.

However, this quest for change can have adverse effects. The more IT is able to deliver changes, the more the business is able to change. This impacts the competitive landscape and the competitors will also be driven to change. This in turn drives the business to require change even more and more quickly, which then requires the IT to meet these requirements. This can easily turn into a vicious circle, whereby the organisation that can change the fastest wins.


“The InfoBank creates operational agility and flexibility and impacts strategy and culture.”


Problem

IT have tried to meet these challenge through different methodologies, architectures and integration approaches. Agile development, Devops and other methodologies improve both the responsiveness and as well as the relevance of the delivery. Cloud-based architectures,  application modularisation and flexible provisioning have created environments that can be tailored quickly to changing circumstances. And data transfer, the lifeblood of any information system, has been made almost ubiquitous through the use of integration services and APIs.

However, this still creates a complex process and application landscape, with the main complexity being the way the information is managed, manipulated and stored. The development processes still need to deal with information integrity and provisioning of this information. The architectures still have to store, secure and distribute this information, and the integration flows still have to ascertain and guarantee the content, validity and status of the information provided. Regardless of the sophistication and speed of the various components in this delivery cycle, it is hard to ensure that these are always aligned to the business needs.

Moreover, this complicated, interrelated web is hard to adapt to ever faster and more disruptive business requests.

Solution

The basis of the solution is the “information-as-an-asset” (IA³) approach. This approach states that information, in itself, has an intrinsic value to the business and some information elements have more value than others. The approach also states that there are key information objects that have a lot of value across the organisation. These are elements like product specifications, schedule dates and deadlines and order lines. These key Information Value Objects (IVOs) drive many processes and applications.

The IA³ approach is the core design principle behind the “InfoBank”. Processes and applications use blockchain and related technologies to transfer information value objects (IVOs) in and out of the InfoBank. These IVOs are validated on content and status and stored in the InfoBank to form the permanent record, including it’s history, of that object. This IVO can then be easily used by other applications and processes in the knowledge that the data is correct and valid. The InfoBank is, in effect, a time-capsule of all the valued information in the business, and can as such be used for operational as well as audit purposes.

New applications, functions and processes can just focus on their function and usability, and not on their data, as the InfoBank does that for them. This makes them much more agile and versatile.

And treating information as an asset, instead of a cost or transaction support item, has a beneficial impact on IT strategy, finance, culture and cost management. Business units can buy or sell IVOs that they need from the InfoBank, not only making IT a marginal cost item, but also creating a market and a standard for high quality / right price IT provision.

Benefits

The InfoBank has a profound beneficial impact on operational agility and flexibility.  It brings rapid process optimisation as process boundaries are only determined by the availability of the information in the InfoBank. Organisational structures are made much more flexible, as they are also driven by the re-combination of functions and process using data from the InfoBank, And businesses can easily implement new business models, process models and even partner-constellations due to the separation of process and information.

It creates IT cost transparency and improves efficiency, due to the buying and selling of information from and to the Infobank. It also drives information quality as low quality information will not be bought. And, because now the information needs are costed on their real value, it aligns IT strategy and spend.

As a result, it can significantly change the strategic landscape and the culture. Companies can focus on improving their processes, use their InfoBank to create partnerships or improve the way they create and exchange information internally. Or they can virtualise themselves even more and become a trader in value-added information.