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Key strategic leadership skills for information management professionals

April 30, 2021

Data and analytics are transforming industries, creating dramatic changes that demand strategic responses. A new McKinsey survey finds that while the fastest-growing companies in terms of profit and revenue can attribute a large portion of their growth to information management, many organizations still lack long-term strategies for leveraging data, instead relying on ad hoc solutions. This highlights the vital need for information management professionals with strategic leadership skills.


According to the Big Data Analytics Industry Report 2020, the global data analytics market will surpass $105 billion by 2027. As larger volumes of data become available through mobile data traffic and cloud computing, more and more businesses hope to capitalize on data’s potential. That will require robust information management because data only has value when it’s the right information, at the right time, and in the right place.

A Mordor Intelligence report expects the product information management market to grow considerably in the coming years as well, reaching nearly $34 billion by 2026, up from $9.88 billion in 2020. This speaks to a recognition across industries that effectively handling data is critical. How organizations select, classify, and abstract data to make it available to internal or external audiences determines its value.


The growing importance of information management at every level has ramped up competition significantly. To outperform competitors, businesses must rely on strategic leadership. Leaders adept at long-term planning who have the insights and skills to tap into and exploit resources can ensure their organizations thrive.

Strategic leadership plays a key role in aligning an organization’s activities with its business strategy. Information management professionals with strategic leadership skills can help their organizations integrate data into their business strategies and find innovative ways to extract value from their data. This can improve organizational processes and ultimately improve the execution of business strategies. Other benefits include:

  • Effective creation and execution of short and long-term strategies
  • Increased operational efficiency
  • Better products and services resulting from improved use of market and customer data
  • Effective risk management
  • Heightened human capital capabilities
  • Impactful contributions to society through corporate and social responsibility


With the right strategic leadership skills, information management professionals can empower their organizations, finding ways to fully leverage data and information across an enterprise. To add the most value to their organizations, information management professionals should focus on the following practices:


Key to the process is promoting ideal behaviors when it comes to handling data. Information management professionals can establish protocols for storing digital content in approved repositories, as well as ensure naming conventions are consistently applied and business records are preserved. They can also provide training that teaches employees about behaviors to avoid regarding information management, such as the use of non-corporate email or consumer storage services such as Dropbox.

In an information management culture, all employees see information management as their responsibility. To take on that responsibility, employees need clear systems that support the right behaviors. Information management professionals develop procedures and processes that make it easy to handle information appropriately. They also create tools, such as training sessions and checklists that further guide and support employees in information management.


Organizations inundated with data often struggle to use it to their greatest benefit. However, by defining a vision for a project or group, then identifying and extracting the relevant data to realize that vision, strategic leaders help deliver the insights and possibilities needed to improve a company’s performance. This involves identifying useful applications for data, spotting trends and aligning data initiatives with organizational goals.

It also involves asking questions regarding what data is available and how to apply it to solve identified problems.


To fully exploit the power of data, organizations must understand its power and potential. Successful information management initiatives have the potential to not only drive new growth but also decrease waste, enhance existing products, lower risks and optimize human potential. The failure to properly leverage data prevents organizations from accurately measuring shifts in customer behavior and staying competitive in a market.

Information management experts play a critical role in making sure their organizations appreciate the many ways data can unlock their potential to excel through our ability to predict the future, diagnose problems and prescribe courses of action to solve them.


The ever-changing and evolving world of data demands those working with it continuously learn and develop to keep pace. While tools such as machine learning and AI help organizations automate services and forecast patterns that increase sales and engagement, they also pose risks, including privacy violations and biased algorithms. Managing risks and taking advantage of new potential rewards requires an ongoing effort to reskill, upskill and absorb developing ideas and information.


To realize the benefits of data, organizations need to ensure data flows freely across its various departments and teams. Otherwise, the information required to reach business goals can remain locked away in silos or IT monitoring tools. Information management leaders can implement models that link disparate datasets. Then, by combining such models with deterministic AI, information management leaders can gain vital insights that allow them to analyze large amounts of data and ultimately unlock answers to pressing business questions.

Breaking down organizational barriers facilitates the type of coordination required to ensure knowledge moves across an organization, allowing for aligned strategies, collaborative planning and more insight-driven actions.


Information management leaders must both disrupt inefficiencies and seek out the most innovative methods of driving analytics. This requires advocating for change initiatives that tackle a range of objectives, from eliminating rigid structures that impede data collection and the communication of an aligned vision to creating systems that make information sharing seamless.

Additionally, information management leaders must remember the importance of approaching data ethically. This practice extends beyond complying with regulations. It means pushing for policies that collect data in ways that cause no harm and breach no trust. It also involves tapping into ways data can be used for social good. Through data analysis, information management leaders have led their organizations to accomplish various goals, from preventing housing violations to reducing water shutoffs. They have also worked to dismantle biases in flawed algorithms and create opportunities to use data in ways that benefit society as a whole.


To succeed in their endeavors, information management leaders must keep their teams motivated and inspired. This involves setting clear goals. By laying a path forward when it comes to innovating changes that optimize an organization’s use of data, information management leaders unite and advance their teams toward achieving company objectives. Strong leadership also involves promoting work environments open to creativity and inquiry. When people feel encouraged to explore ideas and ask questions, they feel greater ownership and produce their best work.


Information management leaders empower organizations, driving innovation and solving problems. By cultivating strategic leadership skills, aspiring information management leaders can harness data’s potential as a transformative force and thrive in the information field. The University of Washington’s Information School offers an information management degree designed to encourage students to hone invaluable skills while also embracing social responsibility, training information management leaders to use information to lead effectively in all contexts and make positive changes in society.

Explore how the University of Washington’s Master of Science in Information Management (MSIM) program offered online prepares graduates to create strategic advantage and lead with innovation.


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