Information Policy Audit: A Case Study of an Organizational Analysis Tool

Article excerpt

Introduction

In order for organizational management activities to be conscious, deliberate, and collaborative efforts, they must be supported by an effective information infrastructure with rationale and protocols. This infrastructure must be based on well-conceived policies that govern the creation, collection, analysis, flow, use, storage, and retirement of information - information meaning data applied to achieve organizational objectives, including the process of "becoming informed."[1]

While such policies are important to any organization, they are particularly important to those engaged in strategic planning, innovative decision making, and managing change. Together these three activities form the basis for information organization and use for problem solving, analysis, forecasting, evaluation, modeling, and research. Since organizational change may follow many different scenarios, each with its own information-dependent requirements, it is important to have flexible information policies in place that accommodate an array of organizational dynamics affecting change, especially with so many organizations involved in downsizing and reinvention. The effort and type of information expended in managing change may differ and should be proportional to the scale of change. For example, some changes are anticipated and planned for. Others are unexpected and spontaneous. Still others are evolutionary and happen in stages. Information policies are needed to appropriate information resources necessary for strategic planning and the innovative decision making process. It is also important to effectively monitor these resources to ensure their adequacy given the turbulence or scale of change.

It is important, too, for management to have the means and tools for assessing the effectiveness of organizational information policies, for developing new policies, and for planning the overall process, including managing innovation. This article comprises empirical research based on a pilot project for a larger-scale piece of work. The investigation centers on the existence and effectiveness of information policies within organizations. Of particular interest to the study are policies which govern internal organizational information processes, as well as external sources which flow into the organization and provide information on the remote environment. Specific policies examined were those directing the flow of messages containing data, theories, ideas, opinions, and so on, delivered through a variety of approaches, such as communication devices, conference and meeting presentations, personal discussion, books, journals, databases, pictures, and multimedia. Investigation focused specifically on policies which aid the organization in controlling the processes surrounding information, using information for strategic planning, and introducing innovation and managing change.

Research Questions

The study targeted the following areas: 1) the organizational role of the department concerned with the control of information for strategic purposes, including managing change; 2) organizational information needs and processes; and 3) information as a conduit to innovation. These targeted areas were the basis for developing an "information policy audit" model. The overall research question asked was, "Can such a model extend generally to the information arena in assessing the efficiency and effectiveness of organizational information policies?" In this initial phase of research the pilot investigation included one case study.

Background

The definition of innovation has evolved over the years from a somewhat narrow focus of introducing a new product to market, to a wider interpretation which includes changes in services, marketing, and systems of management. Thus, from the researchers' perspective, innovation is the application in any organization of new ideas, whether they are embodied in products, processes, and services, or in a system of management and marketing through which the organization operates. …