Information Governance (IG) is quite the buzzword these days, yet too many organizations still find themselves struggling with implementing a practical roadmap for success. Here’s a proven strategy and a few tips I picked up while developing board level IG programs for the Fortune 500.
Walk Before You Run
It’s true that your strategy needs to be agile to support the modern workforce but it also must be driven by methodical policy and technology planning when it comes to IG. As a leading practitioner of this discipline at Fortune 500 companies as well as smaller firms, I learned first hand the benefits of careful strategic planning and executing capstone projects under the umbrella of IG. Over time and as a result of tough lessons learned, I began to develop tested strategies essential for enterprise wide adoption and success.
The first strategy is also a lesson… a lesson about cadence and setting expectations. Understanding company culture, its maturity level and appetite for change helps you plan your IG strategy over 1, 3, 5 years. These are not things you alone determine but they are considerations you leverage and may need to influence to get things done. A company that’s behind the curve on IG, or has slipped a little off the slope shouldn’t be perceived as a problem but an opportunity. How you respond to inefficiencies, gaps, audit findings and weaknesses will make the difference between an organization hostile to IG or welcoming to change. Rushing into IG will serve you up a big plate of the former.
For example, many groups that pick up the mantle of IG, excited by its potential, end up taking a scorched earth approach to handling their data projects, hurriedly setting up IG committees, imposing rules, writing up new guidelines, buying shelfware and basically racing towards what they think will be early wins. But IG is not a race, nor is it a repository for IT and Legal’s kitchen sink. It actually requires an initial 30,000 foot view and assessment of the regulatory landscape, a tactful application to core program components. A planned yet flexible cadence covers essential bases and addresses the unique needs of the business.
A clear executive level strategy around IG…
Presents opportunities for better governance to avoid fines and litigation exposure
Helps to reduce expenses and monetize the information lifecycle
Fosters trust to enhance customer experiences
Instead of rushing in, organizations first need to have the types of open, honest discussions that will achieve the goals and end results noted above. That happens by bringing the right people to the table and under the right setting.
Set the SME Table
At Compliance and Privacy Partners we work with highly regulated, US-based companies essential to America’s economic success. However, our solutions are only as effective as the commitment of our clients to their efficiency and compliance goals. Successful governance transformations require both capital investment and executive leadership.
Information Governance is an organization’s coordinated, interdisciplinary approach to satisfying information compliance requirements and managing information risks while optimizing information value. – The Sedona Conference® – Commentary On Information Governance Second Edition
The Sedona Conference, which has done an amazing job of raising the profile of Legal Hold and eDiscovery processes in litigation, offers up a decent definition of Information Governance but it leaves out (or at least does not fully define) one thing… the valuable people that make the whole process work. People are the “coordinated approach” in that definition and their subject matter expertise is the secret sauce in IG. So, what types of people do you want sitting at an IG table or on an IG committee?
Consider these folks for starters:
- Chief Data Officer
- Chief Enterprise Architect
- Chief Compliance Officer
- Chief Privacy Officer
- Chief Risk Officer
- Information Security
- Internal Audit
- General Counsel
- Human Resources
- Records Management
Now we know people are what make the world go around, and they’re the stakeholders that drive Information Governance, but what’s next? How do we begin building the type of IG program that will last, that will really manage our risks and optimize, or even monetize, our organization’s information and data value?
That next step is a core strategy that lays out the building blocks for establishing a world-class program. Yet this is the point where many companies get sidetracked and wander into the meeting hell desert for forty years. Companies that succeed stick to the basics when they’re starting new IG programs or even breathing life into old ones. At Compliance and Privacy Partners, our experience is that the formula for setting the cornerstones of IG include four basic building blocks.
The 4 Basic Building Blocks of IG
Any company serious about Information Governance requires:
- Knowledge of what data they have and are obligated to retain / destroy
- Strategy for defensibly preserving and / or producing that data
- Tools to identify / protect those records
- Policies that tie that knowledge, strategy and toolset all together
Align Policy with Technology
Information Governance as a discipline has already proven to many corporations around the globe the importance of aligning their policy pillars and best practices with state of the art technology. It is almost a necessity in the high-paced, data driven world we live in. As AI, Machine Learning and Big Data continue to evolve as operational necessities and revenue streams, it becomes even more important to apply governance. But IG is also still a young discipline, exploited by some vendors and consultants as a cure-all with very little practical workmanship behind its practice and execution.
Don’t put the cart before the horse when making a serious commitment to transforming your organization with the power of Information Governance. Spend time developing your strategy, setting the table with the right stakeholders, planning around the basic building blocks of IG and aligning your policies with your technology. Don’t just take our word for it, we’ve seen these principles in action and they work!