The common thread of activity in all the management functions is information management. Every manager today has to manage loads of information some for the purpose of reporting and some for taking actionable decisions. A marketing manager trying to fine-tune a sales strategy would be doing it only after analyzing a lot of relevant information about the market, the customer profile, the product profile and competitor’s pricing strategy.
Similarly, a human resource manager trying to recruit someone for the organization would do a lot of information analysis regarding the job profile, suitability of the candidate for the job, the job market dynamics, etc. The competitive environment that exists in today’s time makes this task of management even more challenging. Decisions have to be taken very fast and after analyzing a lot of data.
It is precisely due to these reasons that more and more information technology (IT) intervention is being used in modern management functions. However, Information management using technology has itself transformed dramatically over the years. From being just a support function it has become a key resource for gaining competitive advantage.
More and more corporations are investing in acquiring the latest management information system tools like enterprise (wide) resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), knowledge management (KM), decision support system (055), business intelligence (81) suites data warehouse (OW) facility as they are convinced of the benefits of such huge investments.
Information Needs for the Different Levels of Management
Even though the broad objectives of management as an entity may be same, like increasing shareholder value, it is by no means a monolithic entity. As has already been discussed, there are different levels of management and each performs its specific purpose. The top level deals with strategy, the middle level with tactical issues and the bottom level with operational issues. The top level that deals with strategy will be taking strategic decisions, middle level will take tactical decisions and entry level will take operational decisions. Now in order to take such decisions, contextual information will need to be provided.
Information Needs of Different Levels of Management
|Levels of Management||Problems handled/ Decisions made||Type of information required|
Decisions are based on situations not/rarely handled in the past.
Decision-making variable not clearly defined.
Semi structured/structured problems.
Decisions on regular issues.
Decisions on tactical issues.
Decision-making on the basis of set rules
|Strategic information from within the organization and outside.
Information about likely scenarios. Information that can be analyzed in different ways.
Regular summarized reports.
Information that can be drilled deeper for insight.
Information to help find out exceptions so that they can be reported to top management
Rule based information, guidelines, handbook level information
A manager at the top level who is deciding on the location of a new factory of the organization has strategic consideration like the labor costs of the location, proximity of the location to the market and long-term growth prospects in mind. He/she is not bothered about the shop floor level operational details like the reason for absence of a worker. He/she will have a strategic view and would need only such information that helps him to take correct decisions. Information is only a resource to him if it can help him to improve the quality of his strategic decision-making. Similarly for other tiers, information is only a resource if one can derive value from it.
The business of information which is today a multibillion dollar industry first started when a firm called Bloomberg started compiling important information about US companies and their balance sheets and selling them to stock brokers. This was the first open trade in information as a resource in modern times. From then on, information (external) has been regarded as a resource that is traded10 sometimes freely and openly as in published literature and sometimes clandestinely in the form of corporate intelligence reports. Also, internal information is seen as equally valuable and every effort is made to derive more value from it and to ensure that this internal information does not find its way outside the organization.
The idea of information management is based on the fundamental premise that information is a resource that is valuable for an organization. The entire subject of information management is about how to derive more and more value from this precious resource. However, unlike most other resources that have to be procured from the outside environment, most information resource is available within the organization if an effort has been made for its safekeeping. Detailed logs of transactions of an organization with its external and internal customers over a period mostly form the basic ingredient of a good quality information resource. This basic information repository is then drilled and analyzed for actionable information, this is one aspect of information management in which strategies are used to derive greater value from the internal repository of data and information. The other aspect of information management is to ensure that this internal information is not ‘leaked’ to the outside world of competitors.