Information management

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Last Update

  • Updated.jpg 2 November 2016


See also Archival principles for medical librarians | Data management | Knowledge management | Metadata | Project management | Records management

"...information management refers to the planning, budgeting, control and use of information within organizations. IM encompasses information and related areas such as personnel, finance, marketing and systems. Information managers coordinate a range of information activities such as the formulation of policy, design, evaluation and integration of systems, the use of technology for competitive advantage and the integration of internal and external information (and data)."

The timely, effective management of information assets within an organization (information management) is a discipline related to data management and knowledge management. Information management is also related to librarianship and information science; given their organizational and computer database skills, many librarians move successfully into corporate information and records management. In the 21st century, information can be created, stored and retrieved in digital or physical formats. Its organizational structure should be capable of being used throughout the information lifecycle regardless of source or format (data, paper documents, electronic documents, audio, video, etc.) and delivery method (intranet, e-mail, cell phones, web).

In the 21st century, with the rise of the Internet and the ubiquity of information of all kinds, it is thought that a causal factor in rising corporate malfeasance and bankruptcies is due to information mismanagement and overload. The daily barrage of information on our computers and in the workplace makes it difficult for employees to sort important from nonessential information. It is not sufficient to simply value information; it is important to know what kind of information is of value and hire professionals who are expert at finding and managing it for your organization.


Information management is the management of information such that it will be systematically evaluated and organized, based on standards set by information professionals hired by the organization, and made retrievable for users. Creating and using information contributes considerably to an organization's goals; where groups and individuals have access to information that they need to do their work and to stay current, they are more likely to be positive contributing members of the workforce. Information management has also been defined as "the management of organizational processes and systems that acquire, create, organize, distribute, and use information."

Information management is often viewed as a cycle of six related activities:

  1. identification of information needs
  2. acquisition and creation of information
  3. analysis and interpretation of information
  4. organization and storage of information
  5. information access and dissemination
  6. information use

Benefits of IM

The main benefits that come from effective information management are that organizations can purposefully and systematically manage information that affects their human resources and financial assets as well as their strategic plans such as defining goals, providing leadership, developing policies, allocating resources, training staff, and setting the agenda for the future. Some other benefits include reducing unnecessary costs associated with "not finding information" in a timely way; reducing uncertainty or risks arising from decision-making in the absence of accurate, reliable information; and, adding value to the provision of services and thereby creating more value.

In health care, the testing of new interventions is a long and costly process. Successful pharmaceutical companies such as Merck and Glaxo control some of the uncertainty by managing their information and using it in their information-intensive activities such as new drug discovery, clinical trials and approvals and marketing. At each step of drug development, information from each activity is used to guide and focus the other activities.

Some of the challenges associated with information management are institutional cultures and politics; people are also a central component of this challenge. Information behaviours and preferences are often the most difficult to change. Knowledge workers vary in their attitudes towards information technology, and some may not wish to change to a new system or new way of communicating. An organization’s norms, reward systems, and general style of working may affect information management. Groups and individuals may hoard information for political reasons. Encouraging workers to share information is difficult because information-sharing and knowledge-creation takes time and requires trust and respect. Most organizations do not reward one employee for solving another employee’s problems, nor do they allocate time and support for information-sharing activities.

Similarities between data, information & knowledge

Consider a spreadsheet that lists all of the print book titles you have purchased in 2012; the numbers that the spreadsheet provide are considered data. When a librarian evaluates these numbers, and compares them to other metrics, indicating a trend, the data has become information. The librarian may see that the reduced spending is a result of more centralized book purchases and consortial licensing thereby creating new knowledge. Information is therefore data that has been analyzed and given some context, endowed with meaning and significance. Knowledge is information that is transformed through reasoning and reflection into beliefs, concepts and mental models. (For more insight into the similarities between data and information, see the entry on information-seeking models‎.)

Recent research in the area of knowledge management suggests new ways of looking at information management. For example, it is thought that organizations own their vast intellectual capital and use it to make decisions. The intellectual capital referred to comprises the expertise and experience of individuals, the processes that define the distinctive way of doing things inside the organization, and the knowledge of the needs of user groups. Intellectual capital is conceptually one part human capital and one part structural capital; human capital is derived from the competence, skills and experience of employees, and structural capital comes from the procedures, routines and relationships developed by workers over time.

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