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Information governance policies need to be simplified

Information governance is an age-old challenge that has grown more complex in the past few years. Are governance policies getting in the way of solving the problem?

For information governance professionals, technologies that allow auto-classification of content using analytics...

can reduce drudgery, boost efficiency and add value for businesses. But, some organizations need to face their people and process problems before they turn to technology.

At the first annual Information Governance Conference in Hartford, Conn., this week, attendees and speakers focused on the future of information governance in a world where enterprises contend with a constant, growing flow of data. And now, it's not just about fighting the risks of that massive volume of data -- it's about finding value in it. In the 2014 Information Governance Initiative annual report, 92% of survey respondents said that risk and value are equally important to their information governance policies, and 68% said that quantifying the financial benefits of information governance was essential to its success in their organizations. 

Laurence Hart, information governance expert and author of Word of Pie, explored the potential power of content analytics in his session "Removing the 'Work' From Information Governance." He discussed applying predictive coding for e-discovery -- which allows firms to teach a system to search through content and find information relevant to their needs -- to records management. "What if we take content analytics and use it to assign retention categories? You can get half of your stuff categorized automatically with business rules and workflow that you have now. The point is, the technology is getting there," he said.

Kate Wertime, conference attendee and information governance specialist at global law firm Sidley Austin LLP, said that she was eager to learn how to implement auto-classification. "I've heard people saying it can be done, but they haven't said how to actually do it," she said. For her, an auto-classification tool would be particularly helpful in finding PII, or personally identifiable information, in content. "People think they're protecting information, but they're actually just giving it away. We should be looking for and protecting that information," she said.

Start with simpler governance policies

While firms like Wertime's might be ready to benefit from auto-classification, Hart noted that organizations should be wary of throwing technology at something that is essentially a people problem.

As he put it, you can't govern what you don't capture. He cited an AIIM 2013 ECM Industry Watch Survey that found that 60% of companies still primarily use network file shares to organize information, making it much tougher to corral and govern information properly. And, he said, people circumvent systems that require too much additional work, leaving metadata blank or saving documents on unauthorized devices. "We don't capture and we don't categorize. We spend a lot of time on the information governance side compensating for the fact that those two things aren't done," he said.

Priscilla Emery, principal, information management at IQ Business Group, agreed with this point. She said that systems that use analytics to categorize information can't function in a void. They need a foundation of well-managed, well-tagged content to learn from.

"Some organizations ask for too much information when populating metadata," she said. "The idea is to make it simple, with a dropdown menu or something, or to cut down the amount of information you ask for."

With a simpler approach that doesn't ask for too much, Hart said, technology can help make the information governance process an easy part of employees' daily work.

"We've all heard about the Dropbox effect," he said. "The Dropbox effect has essentially told us that there are 300 million people in the world who will put their content into a system if it's easy to use and they see some value."

The trick, according to Hart, is to make information governance policies as unobtrusive as possible. They can't block collaboration, for example. "Don't make it harder for them to share, because then it's an excuse for them to not put it in the system."

Next Steps

Cut through records management software hype

Records management still in infancy at some companies

Records management or retention management?

Dig Deeper on Information governance best practices

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