It's all about information

Last month I wrote about Harvard Business School professor Nicholas Carr's article, "IT Doesn't Matter." My bottom line was to agree with a key point, that new information technology investments are justified only when they make strategic improvements in performance.

But even with its provocative title, Carr's article misses the real point. The reason IT doesn't matter is not because it is a ubiquitous commodity. IT doesn't matter because it is information that matters.

The "information economy," or "knowledge economy," generated much hype as it became popular in the 1990s. Hype aside, the economic importance of information is a reality.

However, most current articles and analyses continue to direct their focus to IT and not to information.

Even the Australian government, whose global thought leadership in this area is symbolized by a National Office for the Information Economy (www., focuses more on the economic impact of the tools for moving and protecting information than on the information itself.

In some ways, this tendency is understandable. It is easier to analyze things that can be counted and valued, such as bits and bandwidth, and harder to analyze the intangible value of better information. In the federal government, the enterprise architecture is the first comprehensive attempt to get a handle on how government actually uses the information it collects or generates. The business reference model starts at the top, describing agency missions and organizations on a functional basis. It is at this level that all the resources, including information that the government uses to perform its functions, should be catalogued and examined for cost-effectiveness.

At present, only a lower layer of the federal enterprise architecture deals with information — the data and information reference model. Worse yet, the data and information reference model is the lowest priority of the enterprise architecture, with no scheduled release date.

The good news is that industry leaders recognize the importance of the data and information reference model. The Industry Advisory Council is pushing the Office of Management and Budget to move forward more quickly on this piece of the architecture.

IAC's May white paper, "Business Integration Driven by Business Lines," advances a "federated data model," which establishes a direct link between information and business lines. Although this product would support information sharing and integration, it is not designed to support a high-level analysis of the information's value.

The problem with the federal enterprise architecture and the data reference model is that they remain the products of the IT community. Information has become too important for that.

McConnell, former chief of information policy and technology at the Office of Management and Budget, is president of McConnell International LLC (


  • Cybersecurity

    DHS floats 'collective defense' model for cybersecurity

    Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen wants her department to have a more direct role in defending the private sector and critical infrastructure entities from cyberthreats.

  • Defense
    Defense Secretary James Mattis testifies at an April 12 hearing of the House Armed Services Committee.

    Mattis: Cloud deal not tailored for Amazon

    On Capitol Hill, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis sought to quell "rumors" that the Pentagon's planned single-award cloud acquisition was designed with Amazon Web Services in mind.

  • Census
    shutterstock image

    2020 Census to include citizenship question

    The Department of Commerce is breaking with recent practice and restoring a question about respondent citizenship last used in 1950, despite being urged not to by former Census directors and outside experts.

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.