James G. Kobielus By James Kobielus

When the going gets tough, the tough get lean, focused, and flexible. To help organizations survive the bad times and thrive in all climates, their information management initiatives must remain agile and adaptable.

If you feel your information management strategy is anything but lean, you’re not alone. Many organizations struggle to gain control over information infrastructures that have become too bloated, rigid, and slow to realign with new business drivers.

Lean information management practices are essential for corporate survival. They are far more than belt-tightening exercises. They also help you build analytic muscle for excelling in any business environment. Here are some basic pointers for keeping your information management strategy lean:

  • Trim your information infrastructure of excess cost. Lean means you should cut excessive, budget-busting overhead from your information management environment. Careful cuts are best, because they optimize your existing operations without gutting the core information, analytics, and applications that underpin your core competencies. Silo, server, database, and application consolidation should be your principal approaches. Also, you should re-evaluate vendor-sourcing strategies and renegotiate licenses at more favorable terms. And you should investigate lower-cost alternatives, such as software-as-a-service, to address business intelligence, business performance solutions, enterprise data warehousing, master data management, enterprise content management, and other information management requirements.
  • Fit information initiatives to key business imperatives. Lean also means you fit, focus, and fully align your information management initiatives to mission-critical business imperatives. Strategic alignment ensures that you leverage information assets across diverse application domains and business processes, rather than allow that intelligence to languish underutilized in silos. To sustain this approach, you should establish an information management framework, such as a Business Intelligence Solution Center, that enables ongoing collaboration between business and IT stakeholders. You should engage all key business and technical groups in information management planning discussions.
  • Flex information architectures to changing circumstances. Finally, lean means maintaining an approach that is flexible and adaptable, able to shift course as your needs and environment change. In yoga terms, lean is all about building, toning, and stretching analytical muscle to keep it from tearing when you need to transition rapidly from one strategic alignment to the next. You need the flexibility to swing between centralized information management infrastructures and decentralized or federated environments. For end-to-end data management environments, Forrester has developed an architecture decision support tool that helps information managers to determine which of several topologies is best suited to their needs: centralized enterprise data warehouse, hub-and-spoke, independent data marts, data federation, and information-as-a-service.

Considered as a comprehensive strategy, these lean practices are true bloat-busters and recession-beaters. They allow organizations to deliver practical insights that address all pain points, even &#8212 especially!!! &#8212 within strict budgets.