Five steps to create a target information model

Niko Papadakos, Director at Sapient Global MarketsWhether focused on finance or commodities, businesses are seeking to transform their infrastructures, processes, reporting and customer interactions through digital technologies. However, challenges on several levels cause many of these digital endeavours to fall short of what they set out to accomplish.

A big driver of this phenomenon is the ability, or lack thereof, to become a master of data management. Organizations are finding it difficult to define or develop an information architecture (centralized or distributed) that allows for more effective management, storage, reporting and reconciliation of data Without the proper target information model (TIM) in place, companies face even more problems articulating an enterprise-level plan for achieving related progress.

Unlocking the power of information

Historically, organizations have relied on static information models that tell the enterprise where the information lives and how it is structured. Today, a dynamic information model is more desirable since it shows where the organization generates data in and out of the company, how data gets through integration layers and where data is disseminated across the enterprise.

Begin with high-level information objects by asking yourself what information is vital to your business. Prioritize them, then iterate for a second and third time, and reprioritize the top three categories if necessary

The information model should also determine when and who must provide the information to whom, and if the information predicates someone else’s accessibility to use the information.
The information model further informs what each area does and how they all relate to each other.

Here are five steps to unlock the power of information using a business strategy framework across business lines to create a dynamic information hub while eliminating fragmented systems and processes.

1. Start at the Top

Begin with high-level information objects by asking yourself what information is vital to your business. Prioritize them, then iterate for a second and third time, and reprioritize the top three categories if necessary. You should end up with items such as customer, product, account, order, invoice and so on. Avoid “analysis paralysis” by starting with baseline priority items rather than focusing on every detail.

2. Identify Commonalities

Determine common identifiers by sticking with information objects that are “shared” across two or more business functions. Be aware of the pitfalls of cross-functional integration. Don’t believe it when you hear that a “product” for one part of the business is completely different than another. Your organization’s analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) will depend on this step and will require deep business understanding, change management skills and patience.

3. Establish a System of Record (SOR)

For each information object, identify one or more applications or data stores as its system of record (SOR). This provides an essential originating node for data lineage, enabling visibility to data access by leveraging the integration methods (real-time, near real-time or batch) as prescribed in your target architecture model (TAM). Philosophical debates may arise around single or central SOR versus multiple or a distributed SOR. Define your desired state and let your road mapping exercise be your guide.

4. Define the Data Stewards

For each information object, one or more individuals will be identified as the “data stewards” providing an essential link for data governance activities like standards and quality metrics. Business processes use these information objects as inputs, as elements of calculation or synthesis, and as outputs, creating information flows. When it comes to data governance, be pragmatic and you will find that, most likely, business people are already behaving as data owners even though they may not be officially called “data stewards.”

5. Create a Dynamic View

Combine the applications and data stores from the TAM with the users and business functions from the targeting operating mode (TOM) to create an information flow. This will provide a visual representation of how information flows throughout the enterprise – where data originates, how it is moved and transformed, and where it is consumed. This last step will also reveal shortcomings of previous steps like cutting corners with information links.