Information management with 9-plans model

In the 20th century, Rik Maes developed the 9-planes model in order to provide structure to information management within organizations.

The 9-planes model found its origins through the growth of smaller companies to more mature and sizeable companies. If we take for example a bakery, the 9-planesmodel shows how the craftmanship of an individual baker can grow to an industrial-level bread factory, covering different functional departments. Each of these departments in the organization fill their own role within the provision of information, in order to optimize their overall function and collaboration.

The growth of companies is characterized by an increased amount of supportive processes along the organization’s core process. These supportive processes all have unique deliverables with the common aim to aid the core process. The goal being to increase the overall efficiency of the organization while maintaining the quality of its products and reducing cost. In order to manage the streams of information here, process overviews are required. These have to be shared throughout the organization and are preferably technology based.

The interaction between core business and technology is the heart of information management in an organization. This is illustrated in the 9-planes models vertical domains, these being business, information, and technology. The hierarchal organizational structure is projected over the horizontal domains, and is characterized by strategical, tactical, and operational layers.

Together the vertical columns and horizontal organizational layers result in the 9-planesmodel as made by Rik Maes, as shown in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1: 9 planesmodel by Rik Maes

Quality assurance via the Plan-Do-Check-Act model

The three layers – strategical, tactical, and operational – are also named direction, design, and execution. The direction is given by the strategical layer and requires an operational layer that is able to execute actions towards set goals. The link between these two layers is designed by the tactical layer.

One can take the 9-planesmodel from Rik Maes as a framework for integration, via which management can provide coherent and weighted direction. It can also play a crucial part in earlier design processes. It allows for management to build a relation between the operational layer and overarching information processes, supported by technology that suits the organizations purposes best.

It is useful to take a closer look at the relationship between information management and project management, with the 9-planesmodel in mind. In this context, project management is the managerial layer that has direct interaction with the operations and thereby plays an important role in information management. Project management provides information to higher management on project progress and improves the availability of project related information for the rest of the organization.

To ensure quality where management and execution come together, the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle (PCDA-cycle) developed by Deming is a key process. In Figure 2 below, the PCDA cycle is projected on the 9-planes model, in order to visualize how the two models are related in this context.

Figure 2: 9-planesmodel in relation with the PCDA-cycle from Deming.

A practical example

In our daily work, the 9-planesmodel and PDCA-cycle came together in an assignment that aimed for data centralization within a technical department. In this example, data required a transformation from an individual employee level to a common centralized database. This would contain technical information from various disciplines creating accessible and insightful documentation for all.

First, every employee utilized their own PDCA-cycle for information management. This can be thought of as a private folder structure or mailbox as a document archive. Employees stored an excessive amount of data on their own personal drives, conveniently accessible for themselves. These structures are often sound from an employee perspective; however, this does not lead to shared and easily accessible knowledge throughout the organization and can even lead to security risks.

As the client grew, so too did the technical department. Disciplines such as mechanical, electrical, and facilities became bigger, and external contractors were implemented due to renovation projects of remarkable size. These contractors demanded information from the organization that could not be provided in an individual storage situation. Therefore, it is important that informational data is widely accessible, simple, structured, and easily subtracted from a database. The time and cost losses in any other situation are substantial in order to attain this data information.

This reveals the need for accurate information management. Via project management one can play a role in the organization to realize the importance of centralized data. Our high-level approach would be: determine the desired design of the centralized database, locate the data as is, transform the current data and adapt the new way of working within the organization, and – if desired – leave of the old way of working behind.