One of the most important steps in turning data into information is giving the data context. In the business world we do that through a process called “business process alignment”. During business process alignment we look at each business process from the highest level to the lowest level and identify what information is needed to operate the process and what information is generated during the process. At each of these “information points” we document the raw data itself, any supporting master data and the initial metadata. It is important to understand that this initial metadata is not necessarily the only metadata that will be needed for this data. This data could be used for other purposes or there could be underlying data that already has its own metadata.
Once you have identified the information points and documented them within the business process, it is important to analyze the data to determine whether or not the business process needs are being met. For instance, Do you have the right level of granularity available? Do your hierarchies support how the data will be used? Are you sourcing the data from the right system in the right state? Does the data that is generated support downstream business processes and information points? What safeguards are in place to ensure the quality of the data? Is there a high-level understanding of where else this data is used? Are there any legal considerations?
Although it is true that the business process alignment takes significant effort it will actually reduce the overall time and cost for the implementation. It will increase the end user satisfaction and adoption during the initial rollout phase. It will also reduce fixes and enhancements over the first 12 to 24 months.
Business process alignment needs to stay in sync with any new business processes that are created or any business reengineering efforts. If this is not done in your information solution will degrade over time.