The Power of Information Flow Modelling – Part 1

It’s time for a conversation about Information Flow Modelling and why it is so powerful in helping you to understand how your business works and what change you could initiate so that you continue to be successful in business in the years to come.

In this blog post we discussed some of the new external pressures driving your digital transformation decision making, so this series of posts will take a look at some of the information flow modelling outcomes that can contribute to a successful digital transformation strategy and implementation plan.

Let’s get started by ensuring we understand what we mean when we talk about Information Flow Modelling (IFM).

If you search for this on Google, you will find many sources which more than likely describe a data flow diagram, rather than information flow:

…a graphical representation of the “flow” of data through an information system, modelling its process aspects. A DFD is often used as a preliminary step to create an overview of the system without going into great detail, which can later be elaborated

The result may look like this; but we’d suggest, very strongly, that this is a waste of time and offers no value.


Monetizing Data Assets

We like to take this deeper; and that is where the value of the IFM approach comes from. Consider the role that data and information has in our lives. It is quite literally everywhere; email, conversations, bank balance inquiries, booking an Uber, deciding which cafe to buy your coffee from, heart rate from your Apple Watch, the weather forecast, etc. Information (a construct of relevant data delivered in an digestible way on a specific topic) is the life blood of our knowledge; without it, there wouldn’t be any understanding about who we are or what we do. Within your organisation, the act of your business would not be possible without the data, information, knowledge value chain. And yet, it is one of the most undervalued assets that we have access to. If you’re a reader of our blog posts and follow what we do as a business, you will be familiar with references to Doug Laney’s book, Infonomics. If you haven’t read it yet, pop to our page here and grab yourself a free Kindle version. Please – if you’re at all interested in why data is so valuable and the possibilities it can enable, do yourself a huge favour and carve out a couple of hours this weekend to read it.

Within LINQ, IFM is the process used to understand how information flows through your entire business, not just your information systems. This view exposes everything that is touched by, and touches your information. Typically those “things” fall into 2 principle categories – People and Systems. This is how the flow of information is enabled; people and systems do things with it – they perform activities using it, or, information enables people and systems to perform actions using that information to create more information and turn it into knowledge. So the act of doing IFM is you end up with a visualisation of your business from the perspective of your information; how it is created, where it comes from, where it gets stored, what it is used for, who uses it, who it is shared with, how it is manipulated to create new information, and how it creates content and knowledge which helps you to make your business work through evidence based actionable decisions – from financial spreadsheets, to applications that your customers interact with you through, to records of things you create and sell.

Accurate Knowledge

Gaining accurate knowledge about your information flow will provide you with the purpose for which you have data. “I have this date because it enables me to…” – deliver this service, enable this platform, etc. Our view is that unless you can identify the purpose for which you have data, you are carrying large risk in your business. Without understanding purpose, you can’t ask questions like; is my source data valuable, accurate, up to date, necessary, secure, etc. More and more risk can be found if you don’t understand the purpose of your data. When you then overlay considerations such as data privacy – how you protect the personal information of your employees, customers and partners that you collect, store, and use – knowing data purpose steps up another level.

So to Part 1 of this series, if you model information flow and by doing so connect people to actions, and at the same time understand the information that is needed to enable the action and the information that is created as a result of the action, you can assess whether the action that is being performed adds value to the business. So the purpose conversation shifts to “what is the purpose for which I create this thing?” and that allows us to consider the business value that is enabled by the thing. The result of an information flow is to create something that is useful to the business – to help it do what it does to provide the service to the customer, for which there is an appropriate level of economic exchange. If the thing doesn’t do something of value; you can’t articulate the purpose, then you should question why you perform any of the activities that result in that thing.

People in the DFM

Imagine you do this modelling and you identify many things for which you can’t determine the purpose. When you look at all of the people  involved in doing the work and how long it takes them, and thereby you understand the cost of making the thing, you can consider just how much time and money could be released back into the business to make the things that you can define the purpose for even better than they are now. You have a methodology for identifying actions that are taking place, supported by your people which can stop, and, you have a methodology, based on business value driven by purpose, to look at the things you do need to continue to do and make sure they are as efficient and effective as they can be – and if they are not, by tackling the highest value things first, you are enabling prioritised continuous improvement in your organisation – or to say that another way, you are enabling business transformation and because we live in the digital economy, digital transformation.

So in summary, Information Flow Modelling will enable you to see all of the activities that people perform as they use data and information to create new data, information and knowledge – now you can understand which activities are necessary, and which aren’t. The result – people stop performing tasks which add no value to the business and can reallocate this time to where it can add value.

The same is true for your Systems; that’s Part 2!

Sound like a plan? Click here to arrange a demo and a chat, and start your IFM journey today.