ITM Triangular Conceptual Model

The following graphic has been kicking around in my head, in various incarnations for a few years. It considers the inter-relationship between Information, Technology and their Management or Governance.
ITM Triangle

ITM Triangle

Definitions: Information, Technology and Management (ITM)

Before looking at the whole model, what are its components?  How do you separate information from technology or from management?  One the one hand you do not; there is a continuum in which very few things are strictly one thing or another and lots of bulging between the triangle points where the business of an IT Department happens.  Nevertheless, there is nothing like a good definition and these are from COBIT.

Triangle Points

  • Information: An asset that, like other important business assets, is essential to an enterprise’s business. It can exist in many forms. It can be printed or written on paper, stored electronically, transmitted by post or by using electronic means, shown on films, or spoken in conversation.
  • (Information) Technology: The hardware, software, communication and other facilities used to input, store, process, transmit and output data in whatever form
  • Management:  Plans, builds, runs and monitors activities in alignment with the direction set by the governance body to achieve the enterprise objectives. and/or
  • Governance: Ensures that stakeholder needs, conditions and options are evaluated to determine balanced, agreed‐on enterprise objectives to be achieved; setting direction through prioritization and decision making; making; and monitoring performance and compliance against agreed‐on direction direction and objectives.

Central Core

There are a lot of things going on inside an IT department but generally they rely on people and the application of knowledge.

  • IT People: individuals either employed by, contracted to or otherwise contribute to the objectives of the organization and its IT goals (note, this is not a COBIT definition).  A central leadership roles found in IT departments is the CIO:
    • Chief Information Officer: The most senior official of the enterprise who is accountable for IT advocacy, aligning IT and business strategies, and planning, resourcing and managing the delivery of IT services, information and the deployment of associated human resources.  For brevity this also includes the potential differentiated functions of a Chief Technology Officer or a Chief Knowledge Officer.
  • Knowledge: The intangible awareness of how to do something (e.g. through user manuals, guides, etc.) or the application of ability and other intangible properties to a problem.  Knowledge is brought to an organization by the people who join it but there is also often a localized set of abilities unique or particular to a well run organization as well. According to Merriam Webster (no COBIT definition), knowledge includes:
    • a (1) : the fact or condition of knowing something with familiarity gained through experience or association (2) : acquaintance with or understanding of a science, art, or technique
    • b (1) : the fact or condition of being aware of something (2) : the range of one’s information or understanding <answered to the best of my knowledge>
    • c : the circumstance or condition of apprehending truth or fact through reasoning : cognition
    • d : the fact or condition of having information or of being learned <a person of unusual knowledge>

Client/Environment Results

Outside of the triangle are the clients and consumers of service who tend to think about ITM in silos.  For example, my computer is not booting (technology), I need a report that will tell me… (information), why is IT so “@Q#!$%*” expensive (management/ governance).  The reality is more subtle and holistic and increasingly all three need to work together to provide quality service to the organization. To this end, how the client interacts with IT can be broken into one of the following four means:

  • Application: what most users think of when they think about IT.  COBIT defines these as: A computer program or set of programs that performs the processing of records for a specific function
  • Information System: what most users manipulate when they are using an application.  COBIT definition: The combination of strategic, managerial and operational activities involved in gathering, processing, storing, distributing and using information and its related technologies.
  • Governance/Management:  How you know how to allocate scarce resources to prioritize business problems.  The actual individuals and committees that perform the management/governance functions described in the above definitions.  For example a corporate IT steering, project or program steering or working committee.
  • Utilities: generally invisible to users, until something goes wrong.  Collectively, the software, hardware and other technologies that perform particular computerized functions and routines that are frequently required during normal processing (adapted from COBIT).

Triangle and Real Life

The benefit of using a triangular model is that each point interacts with the other two.  That is there are gradients rather than a set of discrete locations. Thus an application is an example of technology but generally it consumes, transforms or outputs information. Information in isolation is generally not usable without technology or governance (e.g. It needs a report to deliver it and standards to understand it).
The model can also help IT folks view their craft holistically. ‎ Working in one area or another may create blind spots for the other two. Thus someone working in the app development space may forget the information imperatives or lose sight of the business needs for the application. A business user may over-simplify the role of information management or the challenges of building technology to deliver quality and timely information. Finally, while things such as data science are gaining traction the need a suitable container to produce it and the oversight to apply or use it is not diminished.

The So-What Factor?

Nice triangle, but will it get me funding for a data center upgrade, a new ERP system or better business intelligence (BI) tools?  Yes, in a way.  The Triangle can be used to demystify why expenditures and efforts in all areas are necessary.  As well, the triangle may be used as the basis for things like a heat map of where to invest the next dollar. If past years have seen good efforts in BI tools, have the transactional systems kept pace in feeding these systems?  Is there good oversight on master data records or big data to know who owns what and what do you do with the data when you find it?
What are your thoughts on the ITM Triangle?  Does it cover sufficiently what your IT area does, are their gaps or is too high level?