What does it take to become a true data governance superhero within your organization? Records and information manager roles are adapting to adjust to the ever-changing business environment. This post lays out seven ways to become a data governance leader at the core of your organization's information governance strategy.
1. Break Down Silos
Data governance leaders have to establish relationships with every business unit and have the ability to work cross-functionally in all areas of their role. As we have discussed before, all departments create data that can be classified as records and therefore needs to be included. Not only will this improve your information governance, it will spur communication between these "silos" that so often exist within large or even mid-sized businesses. If there is an existing cross-function initiative, records management needs to have a seat at the table. If not, data governance is a great topic to broach this subject as every team can see the value of managing data and records.
2. Think Big
How do these records affect the company as a whole? How are certain records and departments related? Are inefficiencies in one department's records management affecting another business unit's productivity? Are the tools or software we have in place currently doing the job? These are some of the overall questions that would be helpful to have an answer to (or at least an idea) when beginning a cross-functional project. Focusing on the long term is also important. For example, ensuring a consistent file plan and retention schedule that is appropriate for each department is crucial to proper data governance (you can download our FREE file plan template HERE). Again, ensuring there is an understanding as to how a record created in one department affects the rest of the organization is critical knowledge that you as a data governance leader need to share with directors of every department.
3. Involve Your Users
The success of an information governance strategy will rely on many people, most of who will be the average user, that may have little to no knowledge of the importance of data governance. Educating these users should be a cornerstone of this program. Although we want to automate as much of the "heavy lifting" such as applying policies and legal holds away from the average user, establishing a base of knowledge will hopefully eliminate any critical errors they may have otherwise made. Additionally, how can you as a data governance leader share any insights you might have gleaned from handling all of these records? If you spot a process inefficiency, who in each department can you go to and discuss solutions with? Laying this out on even a simple spreadsheet can be extremely useful. Also, it can be helpful to position yourself and your team as a place where feedback can be reported. There is often hesitance from employees to report issues to their direct managers (especially if their manager was the one who implemented a particular inefficient process). By providing a central team that works with every department, you can be a neutral sounding board.
4. Don't Forget The Customer
Often, information managers (and plenty of other internal-facing employees) can lose sight of the end goal of any business: please the customer and create revenue! How is your overall information governance program benefiting your customers? Is customer data being appropriately managed and how can it be better leveraged to improve processes? Serving the customers' needs should be at the forefront of every department and records management is no exception. More importantly given recent large-scale data breaches, is the safety of their data. Establishing proper and detailed data governance rules around customer records is essential to maintaining trust and a solid reputation.
5. Be Strategic
Being a leader in any department requires strategic thinking. When it comes to information governance, this involves not only understanding how records management can reduce risk but how it can drastically improve productivity and impact an organization financially. For example, a software investment that may have initial or recurring cost can easily show ROI when properly implemented. By approaching this strategically, potentially even through a pilot program to show "proof-of-concept" to the executive team, you can show the ability to try alternate solutions to problems they have potentially plagued a business for years. A data governance leader must also be able to translate the strategic vision of the executive leadership to their team as well as the directors of the respective departments. Acting as a strategic liaison can provide immense value during any cross-functional initiative.
6. Start Horizontally
As we discussed, breaking down silos is a key component of becoming a data governance leader. The best way to do that is to think horizontally. How can data from one department be leveraged in another? Also, is this data being managed in a way that protects it while still allowing access for all of those who need it? It can be easy for those unfamiliar to think of governance or records management as "archiving", but records are living things that have value of varying degrees throughout their lifecycle. It's true that this often ends in disposition, but really challenge yourself and your team to understand what value can be squeezed out of different types of records before they have outlasted their usefulness.
7. Take The First Step
When large organizations establish an initiative it can end in a bloated program that causes as many new problems as it was supposed to solve. Again, a data governance leader will have to think strategically about how different tools, business units and workflows will mesh together. The benefit of initiating a cross-functional program from the start is you can control the scope. This is not to say this should be rushed but it is much better to move a few small but effective changes into place rather than plan and plan and never act. Leadership is also about taking risks and evaluating those actions to understand where they can be improved and refined.