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Information Management Maturity Levels and Lifecycle

January 22, 2015

Information management maturity (IMM) sounds like some dry boring stuffy topic; a conversation that you might hope to avoid being engaged in if possible. But what if I told you that it’s not dissimilar to the life cycle of humans and picking up clothes off the floor, and your sense of comfort at the house when things are picked up… or not? Would that pique your interest?

Here’s the thing. Even without you recognizing it, IMM will directly affect your sense of comfort this year, more importantly, how well things get done at work, if they get done, and your bottom line. If you’re reading this, you’re probably responsible for getting things done, so stick with me on this relatively short read, I have a couple of options at the end for you to consider.

First let’s briefly define what IMM (that’s information management maturity) represents. Then, I’ll show you my corny clothes model. In 25 words or less, IMM reflects the awareness that there are different levels of effectiveness at managing information from documents to to-dos, from operations, to growth and transformation. The increasing levels of “maturity” represent increasing levels of attention and processes regularly applied to managing information and ultimately deriving value from information.

The Justice Ministry in New Zealand has a reasonable good description and IMM graphic on their site.


Think of IMM as reflecting various levels of rigor about collecting and sharing information at work. It’s based upon, among other things, the awareness that information management helps people perform:

  • better,
  • more accurately,
  • more timely, 
  • more consistent with what works, 
  • with less labor per output,
  • less do-overs, 
  • less misdirection, and 
  • less time priority mismatch based misallocation (spent 4 hours, when should have only spent 1, given the priority). That’s quite a list isn’t it?

However if that seems too simple, check out Howard Dresner. Dresner, in his book, Profiles in Performance: Business Intelligence Journeys and the Roadmap for Change, compiled an even more detailed model (click to view) as he pointed out that “So many organizations invest in enterprise performance management (EPM) and business intelligence (BI) solutions without the needed conditions to ensure success. As it turns out, the right culture (performance-directed culture) —one which is receptive to BI and EPM—is often the missing ingredient”.

Ok, so do you mind if I just use a simple model to help illustrate where I’m heading to and what you’re in the middle of? It might look something like this if applied to where you work. Think how things really happen at work, how information really gets managed in the department you work in.

Information Management Maturity Levels


Now it gets even more interesting if you start thinking of those same levels in terms of other age dated behaviors when it comes to picking up stuff as you move from childhood to adult. Take a look at this.

Information Management as Contrasted with Life Cycle Maturity about Picking Up Stuff


Doesn’t seeing information management levels in terms of age-related attitudes about picking up stuff make sense? Not to mention, that hopefully it makes the whole process easier to understand. Maybe that conversation about information management could be pretty interesting now that you have some new perspectives to talk about. I find that the age-related or life cycle comparison helps me understand what’s going on when I’m working with different organizations. I hope it helps make sense of where you work and the people you engage with, and why they do what they do.

 Ok, ready for a couple of thoughts about implications before I wrap up?

  1. First of all, simply buying better information management tools (ex. project management, document management, etc.), doesn’t change the level of maturity with which people are operating.  You’ve probably experienced that first hand.  If the tools don’t match up to one’s current maturity level (typically they are one or more levels above), we simply don’t make a habit of using the tools, and in fact may refuse or ignore right from their deployment. Buying information management tools doesn’t automatically up-level people.
  2. So how do you up-level the maturity of information management where you work? Actually there are only two primary choices:
    1. You lead the up-level process. You do it by prioritizing information management, sustained investment in the process and outcomes, model it yourself, insisting others operate at a similar level, while engaging, monitoring, reinforcing, celebrating, and validating information management’s importance… and eventually removing people who insist on not up-leveling.
    2. You hire a “room cleaning service”. In project management circles I’ve heard them referred to as the “project management police.” Essentially you set aside resources to collect and update information, such that those who need to function at level 4 and 5 have the information they need, even if most of the rest of the organization is functioning at a lower level. Let’s call them “Information Management Police”. They’ll need a badge and some type of jail to operate effectively. If you don’t have the time and personality to drive this process, sometimes using the proverbial “room cleaning service” or “information management police” is the best and most expeditious option short term.

Bottom Line:
The effort, effectiveness and value derived from Information Management efforts vary widely across organizations and have a history of being categorized in terms of levels of maturity. One convenient method of understanding the levels of maturity is to correlate them with the behaviors and attitudes around picking up clothes and things, commonly expressed through our first five decades of our life cycle. There are two primary options for “up-leveling” the maturity of an organization. Those are either to lead the development process, or pay for data collection and management service (“room cleaning”).

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