Despite investments of millions of dollars in Information Technology, we seldom come across an organization that has actually designed an information strategy that focuses on collecting and processing information for strategic decision making.
Most information strategies we see intend to harmonize internal information; none intend to cross-relate this with external information to gain a complete picture.
The purpose of an information strategy is first and foremost to create the means by which senior management can keep in touch with the situation of the enterprise and the reality of the environment but in the long term the strategy must achieve Information Superiority over the competition.
During World War II the British achieved Information Superiority by their breaking of the code of the German Enigma machine, which was an enormous directed and intended effort. It has been said that this achievement shortened the war by at least 2 years. However, daily newspapers report that even respected giant corporations suddenly announce that the projected yearly results are much less than expected while probably a few months earlier a very optimistic forecast was given.
This phenomenon points at major imperfections in their information systems which, whether or not by design, have concealed the real situation.
A few years ago the financial world was shocked by unexpected sombre messages from well known firms like Enron, Worldcom, Shell, Ahold and Parmalat.
It goes without saying that a long term plan for the information activities in the company is of the highest importance. If a company has appointed a Strategic Business Information manager it must be his task to develop the information strategy together with senior management and protect its correct execution.
Organizing such an information activity and its structure takes a long period of time and requires a considerable investment. Therefore a strategic information plan is a long term decision.
The strategic choices to be made for instance are:
– The external search direction priorities (focus);
– The internal information priorities (focus);
– The budget for equipment and external consultancy;
– The personnel needed and their skills.
In 1928 the large German chemical company I.G. Farben opened an office in New York, Chemnyco. This was the guise under which systematic information was gathered of the innovations of the American Chemical Industry. It relied mainly on information published in public scientific journals, trade papers and the like. They were mainly interested in the developments in the chemical and petrochemical industry and especially in developments of additives for lubricants and petrol. Despite the fact that the activities of Chemnyco were not military driven, the information it collected about additives were vital for a modern motorized army. Later the facilities of this office were also used by the Abwehr (German Secret Service).