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It Came to Me While Traveling: The Importance and Falsehood of Search

by Andrew White  |  April 1, 2016  |  1 Comment

I was sitting with with a client and I was helping them develop their information strategy.  Note that I did not say information management strategy but information strategy. An information management strategy tends to focus on the T in IT whereas an information strategy explicitly focuses on the I in IT and mostly ignored technology.

We had In front of us the current business plan.  It listed a bunch of IT initiatives in flight.  One such initiative was ‘develop a mobile strategy’.  I asked, “What was the business relevant metric that would demonstrate that the delivery of a mobile investment was successful?”  The client admitted that there was no such measurement yet defined.

So we then explored what the purpose of this noble strategy was.  We determined that the users (in this case policemen) needed to get access to a broad range of data from disparate systems through reasonably integrated system very quickly, as they responded to calls for assistance from the public.  The mobile strategy was going to target the work to collect and serve that data to the field to aid improved performance by the police officer in the field.  Now this was goodness.

I the asked the following: in a word, what is the goal of the technology-enabled officer?  The answer was, “…the most effective and timely search app on a cell phone”.   I pushed back on this:  was search the outcome or a means to an end?  Was the real outcome more of a case of find more than search?  The penny dropped.

This subtle shift from a need to serve up data to deliver a find capability changes the nature of the solution being conceived.  Yes, of course, there remains a big search element but that is only half, if that, of the solution.  How the right data is found is much harder, and more valuable, than just searching stuff.

I ended the meeting reciting another story I have never forgotten.  I was once hosting a supply chain SCOR workshop for some military folks.  I had started the presentation and based the entire material on the agree premise that the goal, the outcome, the measure of success, was the fully equipped and supplied war fighter.  This was the agreed goal given to me by the client to prepare the workshop.  Two hours in a three star general raised his hand.  “Son, that is not the goal of this outfit.  The goal is a dead enemy war fighter.”  With one comment this general turned the entire conversation upside down.  But the point is subtle.  In time of war, a fully supplied war fighter is not the goal – it is the destruction of the other guy.  Just being supplied is great.  But using that supply effectively to execute is the real measure of success.  It’s interesting how, “what we measure” means to much.

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Category: business-outcome  information-strategy  mobile-and-endpoint-technologies  mobile-technology  outcome  search  

Andrew White
Research VP
8 years at Gartner
22 years IT industry

Andrew White is a Distinguished Analyst and VP. His roles include Chief of Research and Content Lead for Data and Analytics. His main research focus is data and analytics strategy, platforms, and governance. Read Full Bio


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  1. […] I was sitting with with a client and I was helping them develop their information strategy. Note that I did not say information management strategy but information strategy. An information management strategy tends to focus on the T in IT whereas an information strategy explicitly focuses on the I in IT and mostly ignored technology. We …  […]



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