Dr. Denise Bedford explains how information management will provide a better future for all businesses

Narrow the Information Gap or Face the Societal Consequences: Hear From Dr. Denise Bedford

By Sharlene Oong on May 7, 2019
As information is the lifeblood of businesses and organizations, experts within the business industry recently addressed how the productivity of a company is deeply affected due to the lack of managing its resources. With the growth of data and content on customers and systems, if the information is not handled strategically, businesses will be unable to achieve their goals. In order to examine this issue and provide a solution, expert Dr. Denise Bedford from Georgetown University, USA, and author of the publication, Strategic Management of Business-Critical Information Assets, discusses how to narrow the information management gap between business professionals and information professionals which will ultimately benefit the overall productivity, in an IGI Global interview below.

What would you say was the most surprising thing about your research in information management within organizations?

Firstly, for over 40 years, I have seen many different [business] environments. Despite the variations, there are a core set of challenges that are shared across organizations, sectors, and communities. To add on to that, the best intentions and efforts of all these organizations are how little attention is focused on guiding folks in planning, managing, and decision-making when it comes to information [management]. There are also significant gaps in professional training and education across the information life cycle, despite deep treatments in some stages. Finally, I would say I have been impressed by how many people from different backgrounds are responsible for information management across organizations. This is a logical result from a lack of formal or even consistent education and training. People who are assigned information management responsibilities are amazing because they learn from others, they learn on the job, and then [they] try to pass on to others what they are learning. One of the reasons I wanted to [work] on Strategic Management of Business-Critical Information Assets, was to give these people – and their managers – a foundation from which to grow and share their knowledge. The hope is that we will make more and faster progress if we all start from a [robust] foundation.

What were your main expectations for the outcome of this publication and how were they achieved?

This is an easy question to answer. I wanted to create a guide, [in the form of a] reference book that I have been looking for, in the past 30 years, which could potentially be something to help us wake up from a “Groundhog Day cycle” – every project requires a briefing of senior managers and stakeholders on what we mean by information management, why it is important “to do” information management, and what it means to do it strategically in a rapidly changing economy and society. Rather than having to reinvent or represent the same ideas, it might be more effective to give people something they can use to self-study and self-educate. I also think it is important to have a text we can use to start a conversation across all of the areas of information management practice. I have been struck over the years by how fragmented practices pertaining to information management truly are. I hope this might help those different sub-disciplines to see the common threads. We need all the information practitioners and professionals to coalesce around a “whole view” of information management and to reduce the existing boundaries. In the end, if we can achieve these two expectations, we will advance information management as a professional practice.

What is the foundation of information management as a capital asset among information professionals?

I would suggest that a common foundation and starting point for information management – all aspects and types of information – is the culture of information. This means it is essentially how we value information, our information behaviors, our most basic assumptions about information – as an important business asset rather than just a burden or a business by-product. We need to make all these invisible aspects of information culture and behaviors visible – what do these invisible artifacts and behaviors tell us about how we value information? The same mentality applies to business professionals, as well as information professionals. In the knowledge management sphere, it is a high risk to treat information as a burden or a by-product. We cannot take information for granted, as we cannot assume that all information has equal value. This also means bridging the nine distinct cultures of information management practices. We need to build that holistic culture and live it.

What are the main challenges of conducting research in information management in today’s business environment?

The challenges are really for those who are trying to do information management today and to navigate the sea of conflicting advice, tools, and approaches. The greatest challenge is looking beyond technologies and tools – to see the fundamental issues and practices. Technologies are enablers, and each technology or tool is built around a set of assumptions. We need to critically examine those assumptions and compare them to the basic business assumptions of our organizations. Additionally, these practitioners and professionals are too often excluded from business conversations. This is because more traditional information professionals tend to create boundaries around their practices – boundaries that are reinforced by terminology, standards, and communities. We need to build the bridge between information and business professions. Information management research needs to be conducted in the “b”usiness – (small b) space – not in a segregated information space. Information research, which is segregated, is less likely to be trusted or adopted by the business, singling out the higher need for more adoption and trust.

As data continues to be an ever-evolving opportunity and challenge, where do you see the future of data protection and management within organizations in a few years, and why?

Data is a type of information, as it needs to be an integrated part of the information space. The boundaries between data and information are blurring more each day. As data comes ranges in many different forms, from fully-structured data or semi-structured data, there is a significant risk we are beginning to see when data scientists talk about unstructured data and apply structured data and statistical methods to those types. It is important to understand the commonalities of data and information assets, as well as the variations that may generate risks and liabilities, if not respected.

When it comes to research in managing information assets, how does your research differ from others in terms of innovation within business and management?

I am trying to create a business context for understanding and thinking about the issues. As I mentioned earlier, we have too much fragmentation and segregation of information management today, where there are too many unnecessary boundaries that no longer make sense. We need to create bridges. I would like to see information management taught in business schools and treated as part of the business management curriculum. We also need to make it more widely accessible to all levels of education – this is a community college, a bachelor’s degree subject – not just a graduate level topic.

What has your experience been like publishing with IGI Global?

Excellent! The editors are more like coaches, colleagues, and support teams. I also like their careful selection of peer reviewers – the editors understand the topic and make sure the peer review process is constructive, relevant, and pertinent.
We would like to thank Dr. Bedford for her insight on business information systems, data analysis, and the overall business environment.
Dr. Bedford’s research is available through IGI Global’s InfoSci®-Books, a database of 5,300+ reference books containing over 100,000+ chapters focusing on emerging research. With an annual subscription (2000-2020) price offered as low as US$ 9,450 US$ 7,088* (one-time perpetual purchase for current copyright year (2020) offered as low as US$ 20,500 US$15,375*), this database hosts key features such as full-text PDF and HTML format, no DRM, unlimited simultaneous users, and no embargo of content (research is available months in advance of the print release). Spanning across 350+ topics in 11 core subject areas, including business and management, computer science, education, science and engineering, social sciences, and more, this robust research database is ideal for academic and research institutions.

    Additionally, when institutions invest in IGI Global’s InfoSci-Books and /or InfoSci®-Journals (185+ scholarly journals) databases, they can take advantage of IGI Global’s Open Access (OA) Fee Waiver (Offset Model) Initiative. Through this transformative initiative, IGI Global matches the library’s investment with a fund of equal value to go towards subsidizing the OA article processing charges (APCs) for their faculty patrons at that institution when their work is accepted under OA into an IGI Global journal.**

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the authors’ own and do not reflect the views of IGI Global.
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