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Seven tips in building an information governance strategy

Your information governance strategy is like running a long-distance race, not a sprint, so plan for endurance, fortitude and various steps along the way.

Companies are easily overwhelmed by the prospect of developing an information governance strategy. And they should...

be. It's a daunting task. But it's far easier to take on an IG plan if you have mapped out the steps along the way. To do so, you have to get big picture and think about the broader goals of the business, then translate those goals into action-oriented milestones in your IG strategy.

In this sense, think of launching your information governance strategy much like running a long-distance race rather than a short sprint. You need endurance, determination and the ability to deal with disappointment. Fortitude and patience will make the difference. IG plans need constant attention and constant revision.

Sketch out a plan

As you map out your plan, think about how you would plan a vacation. Now consider how you're going to get there. What flight will you take? What hotel will you stay in? What will you do while at the vacation spot? Just like your vacation spot, it's important -- and I can't stress this enough -- that your information governance program is real to you. You need to visualize what that program will look like and sketch it out.

We'll build on that thought while considering the next six tips.

Understand business goals and objectives

What does it mean to understand business goals and objectives?  Goals establish where you intend to go. They specify what you must do and when.

They help improve overall effectiveness as a company -- whether you want to increase your share of the market, for example, or improve your customer service. The more company goals and objectives are understood, the more likely you can identify areas where you can help the business by applying information governance practices. Objectives are the specific steps you and your company need to take to reach your goals.

Suppose your company's goal this year is to double the number of clients served, thereby increasing total revenue. Your objectives are as follows:

  • Cultivate prospects by launching a social media marketing and thought leadership webinar campaign.
  • Reduce the amount of data in your digital repositories and improve search capabilities for senior executives, so they can access information when they need it.
  • Decommission legacy software applications to hasten e-discovery requests and reduce cost.

If these three objectives -- or even one -- are met, it will surely contribute to increasing your company's client base. When senior executives stop worrying about governing and protecting client information, they can focus energies on serving clients.

Commit to the program

Sticking to a workout program takes commitment and sacrifice. How many of us have started a workout program and stuck to it for only a few months? Most of us have likely done that. But the bigger question is: how many stuck with the program over a year or longer? Not many -- and because of this it's difficult to see results, because we were not committed to the program. And those of us who have gym memberships, those places love to take our business. Because each year we start back at square one, never able to make progress because we lack commitment.

The same holds true for our information governance strategy. If we're not committed to growing the program it will never succeed. Miracles don't happen overnight, there's no IG steroid that will speed the process. The golden ticket lies in how committed we are to the success of the program.

Create a reasonable work environment

Don't make it more difficult for people to do their jobs. It's a recipe for noncompliance. Think about how much success you've had getting employees to save emails to your enterprise content management (ECM) platform. Probably not much. Why? Because that process made life more difficult. It wasn't practical. Who has time to profile every email message and save it to an ECM platform? Not many.

Senior executives don't want to do information governance; they want to serve clients and increase their profitability. If you force them to do a process that doesn't make much sense, they will just find a workaround. When launching an information governance strategy, consider the culture of your company, so you can understand what works and what doesn't. Remember no company is the same. And don't strive for perfection.

Establish quick wins

Identify pain points and go for quick wins; find the low-hanging fruit. I am a New York Jets fan, so more often than not my team is playing from behind during the second half of the game. So, I'm on the edge of my seat looking for something positive to happen, so the game doesn't quickly become out of reach. I'm looking for that quick score to get some momentum going. It's important to go for the quick score when launching your IG program. Why? Because it gives you and your company something positive to build on.

Quick wins start with identifying data that takes up unnecessary storage. Why not put a stop to buying more server hardware, email archives and shared drives? Or even simpler: Start deleting those large WAV and AVI files that no longer have value. Any way to get that quick score!

Select CIGO and steering committee

A chief information governance officer CIGO leads a coordinated effort across multiple disciplines to ensure the enactment and ongoing facilitation of information governance. Members of the IG steering committee should include business, legal, records management, privacy and IT departments.

Here is a model framework developed by Nick Inglis, a founding partner at Optismo:

  • The business leverages constructs of information governance in its daily work. IG must align with the business, and its input is critical for success.
  • The legal/compliance department ensures that the organization complies with regulatory and legal requirements. Those requirements are enacted through Information Governance.
  • Records management is responsible for the information that is to be governed. This unit's input and expertise is invaluable to an IG program.
  • Privacy/security professionals are tasked with managing and securing data within an organization. Information Governance touches on all aspects of their roles.
  • IT is tasked with execution of an information governance plan from a technology perspective. The success or failure in application relies on its expertise.

All key stakeholders play a part to the success of an information governance strategy. But of course someone needs to take the lead. And you should ask yourself the question, "Why not me?"

Shatter information silos

Last but not least, information silos must be shattered. All the stakeholders mentioned above have their own roles, but they need to be able to work together. It's like a marriage, where each partner has roles in the family, but communication is key if the marriage is going to last. They must work together, especially when making important decisions.

That's why information governance is needed in the first place; employees tend to work in their silos without merging information and communication with other departments. It's the top contributor to information being hoarded and duplicated. If no one knows what projects you're working on, how can they help?

In sum, here is an outline for IG strategy success:

Sketch out your plan
Understand business needs and goals
Commit to the program
Create a reasonable work environment
Establish quick wins
Select CIGO/IG steering committee
Shatter information silos

And it's no coincidence that it spells the word success.

Next Steps

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This was last published in July 2015

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