Information management is the collection, storage, dissemination, archiving and destruction of information. It enables teams and stakeholders to use their time, resource and expertise effectively to make decisions and to fulfil their roles.
All projects, programmes or portfolios generate data in the course of capturing requirements, planning the work and controlling progress.
P3 management teams need to transform data into information through interpretation, analysis and presentation. They must establish information management processes and responsibilities from the start. These will usually conform to organisational standards, but any adaptation of those standards must be set out in an information management plan.
The information management process starts with data collection and creation, and its conversion to information.
The collection and creation of data takes many forms. In the early stages it will focus on capturing requirements and developing solutions that meet those requirements. It will then move on to the creation of plans showing how the requirements will be met. As the work progresses, performance data will be collected.
Data must be transformed into information that is usable by the P3 management team and stakeholders. This is made easier by adopting standard techniques to analyse the data (such as earned value management to show performance trends) and documents to present the information (such as a business case to show why the investment is worthwhile).
P3 methodologies define a suite of standard documents and many organisations develop electronic templates to ensure consistency. Key documents will be subject to configuration management and the information management plan will define how information is classified and stored.
Storage must be designed with accessibility in mind. Information that cannot be easily found is of no value.
The preparation and dissemination of information will be defined in the communications management plan. This will include ownership, access rights and timing of dissemination.
As information is superseded it must be archived. Archived information needs to provide an audit trail of changes and a source of information in support of lessons learned.
Some archived information may be stored in a knowledge management database that allows easy access in order to help improve the management of future work.
Information that is no longer required will eventually need to be destroyed, subject to statutory requirements and organisational policy. The destruction may be for security or confidentiality reasons, or simply to prevent an accumulation of unnecessary documentation.
Information management processes must comply with related organisational, legal and regulatory standards and policies. Members of the P3 management team will each have a responsibility for aspects of information management.
The P3 assurance process will check that information is being handled in accordance with the information management plan.
Information management can be seen as an overhead that takes time away from managing a project. Many project managers will lack support to help with the administrative burden and, where this is the case, the information management system should be made as simple as possible so that it can be part of the project manager’s role.
On larger projects, or where the project is part of a programme, there will probably be a support function that will take care of the information management process. However, the project manager still has responsibility for ensuring that there is an appropriate information management plan in place and that it is implemented.
Where a project is being delivered by one organisation on behalf of another, the project manager must be aware of different policies and conventions that affect the transfer of data and information between the two organisations.
An information management plan for a programme must address three factors:
- consistency of information management at project level;
- coordination of information management between projects and business-as-usual;
- managing programme-level information.
Consistency across projects is important for both data and information. Data consistency means using a common system for recording and distributing data. This should allow project management teams to have access to relevant information across the programme to better manage their component part. A simple example would be ensuring that all projects in a multinational programme report costs in the same currency, using the same mechanism for calculating exchange rates. Without consistency it is difficult to aggregate information to create an overall picture for the programme.
The programme management team should also ensure that all projects use the same documents, terminology and templates unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise. This makes communication easier and more efficient.
Some data and reports will only exist at programme level. This will relate to information that is either outside the scope of individual projects, or has been created by aggregating information from multiple sources.
Programmes will often include a support function that can take responsibility for the information management process across projects.
Although united by a set of common strategic goals, the projects and programmes within a portfolio will have different contexts. Wherever possible a portfolio should apply a consistent approach across its component parts but this may be adapted for particular circumstances.
A portfolio support function will handle the information management process and may provide support to all or some of the projects and programmes.
Responsibility for knowledge management and development of maturity is also likely to reside with the portfolio management team. Information management is closely linked with both these areas and information management in the portfolio dimension must take a long-term view to ensure that good practice is embedded in the organisation.