June 28, 2016

Information Governance Expert Roundtable

13 minute read

We were lucky enough to have access to four well-respected thought leaders in the information governance industry and ask them some pressing questions about the state of IG as well as the future.

Here are our four guests:

  • Nick Inglis, President of the Information Coalition, Co-Founder of The Information Governance Conference, and Founder of The Information Symposium. Inglis is the author of the AIIM SharePoint Governance Toolkit and creator of the Information Governance Model.
  • Kevin Parker, a consultant with NEOSTEK. For two decades, Kevin has helped organizations manage their information better with strategy, architecture, governance, and innovative technology solutions. He is a Certified Information Professional and has earned AIIM training certificates in ECM, ERM, BPM, SharePoint, and Capture.
  • Chris Walker, an independent information governance consultant and principal with PHIGs IMC helping organizations develop and implement practical, effective information management (IM) and enterprise content management (ECM) strategies and solutions that maximize value and minimize risk.
  • Robin Woolen, who has worked in the field of Information Governance since 1994 with a specialty in strategic consulting focused on enterprise-scale information management systems and is known as The Records Guru.

Now on to the questions. The initials in bold before each answer indicate which expert is answering.

How do you define information governance?

NI: At The Information Coalition, we've defined Information Governance and I truly believe in our definition: "Information Governance is the overarching and coordinating strategy for all organizational information. It establishes the authorities, supports, processes, capabilities, structures, and infrastructure to enable information to be a useful asset." It's a definition that aligns with our Information Governance Model.

KP: First, it is important to start with Information Strategy followed by Information Architecture. Strategy asks “What are we trying to accomplish, and what are the critical success factors?” Architecture asks “How do we organize and structure things so that the right information gets to the right people and processes as the right times?” Information Governance asks “How do we get people to use information and systems in the ways we intend?” It defines the rules and roles that support the Strategy and Architecture. The goal is to get information and systems used in ways that support the organization’s mission while mitigating risks. This view of Information Governance is very true to its roots in the quality management movement and ISO 9001.

CW: Information governance is all the rules, regulations, legislation, standards, and policies with which organizations need to comply when they create, share, and use information. Governance is mandated internally and externally.

RW: I use the definition The Sedona Conference presented at the ARMA Executive Conference on Information Governance a few years back that defines Information Governance as "an organization's coordinated, inter-disciplinary approach to satisfying information compliance requirements and managing information risk while optimizing information value. Simply put; Information Governance is getting trusted information to the right people at the right time.” 

What are some of the biggest roadblocks to a successful information governance program?

NI: Since Information Governance is still lacking in maturity as a professional practice, there are numerous and this is backed up by our ongoing Information Governance research. Primary among those issues is that there is no clear leader for Information Governance efforts. Other issues that we've identified include bad Change Management and Communications practices, along with poorly formed Information Architectures.

KP: One significant roadblock is failure to develop a formal Strategy and Architecture for enterprise information. If Information Governance supports Strategy and Architecture, then they are prerequisites. Any initiative that has “Information Governance” as its sole concern is doomed to fail. It would be like a manufacturing plant that has a great quality assurance and safety program when they don’t even know what widgets they plan to make or how to make them.

A related roadblock is failure to get senior leadership onboard. They need to see the strategic value in doing real Information Management. You must tie your business case for strategy, architecture, governance, and IT systems to actual business goals. Doing Information Governance because it’s a “best practice” simply will not cut it.

Another huge roadblock I see is taking the stance that all staff are Records Managers or Knowledge Managers or Quality Managers. They aren’t. Tacking on governance policies and procedures that add extra work for staff will not end well. The best way to handle the capture and protection of records and knowledge is by ensuring the right processes and systems are in place, then capture and protect information automatically.

CW: IG not being seen as important and organizational culture are two of the bigger roadblocks that I’ve come across.

RW: A major challenge we face is an organization’s cultural ambivalence toward information governance. For decades Records Management has been relegated to the basement or some out of the way warehouse where you only went when you needed to find some historical document. There was a disconnect between the business, its information and the value of that information.

Big Data has changed that view for many organizations, but that has brought a host of new issues as organizations rush to create huge “Data Lakes” of information. While these repositories can be valuable, there needs to be massive effort to cleanse and normalize the data before it is migrated into the new system. The old adage of “Garbage In, Garbage Out” has never been more accurate. At the same time there needs to be a similar effort by organizations to define what they want out of this new system. Determine some key areas for Business Intelligence that can have an immediate impact on the organization’s strategic goals if at all possible. The ability to quickly show results to the organization is critical to the perception of overall value.

Where are the biggest areas of failure during an information governance implementation?

NI: I tend to think that people try to tackle too much at once and don't focus on incremental improvements. Incremental improvement is what can be the difference between a project that stalls and one that is successful in the long term. Set some easy goals early on, show results, repeat.

KP: Many of the reasons for failed information governance implementations are due to a failure to develop real requirements with the right people in the organization. Those requirements come from the Strategy and Architecture, along with any rules and regulations the organization must follow. Without strategy and architecture to simplify and clarify things, you end up with a lot of information ROT (redundant, obsolete, trivial) and multiple, disparate silos.

Perhaps the biggest sign of failure of any information initiative is lack of user adoption of processes and technology. For Information Governance, this often comes from requiring users to do too much work to properly categorize and route information.

CW: There is no such thing as an IG implementation, so that’s a pretty big failure. What is the organization actually implementing? Is it security? Is it records management? Is it content management or content analytics? All of these things and more make up what IG actually is.

RW: Undoubtedly the biggest area of failure in any implementation is in unstructured data. Every organization has a massive garbage dump of a network share environment with an endless pile of personal folders, where the staff has squirreled away their secret stash of information they use to do their daily business process. Email is the same situation in many instances. If you don’t have a plan to get at that information, your implementation will fail.


Infographic: Information Governance Roadblocks


What are a few major benefits to automating the information governance process?

NI: It depends one what processes we're talking about, since Information Governance is the overarching strategy for all information, improvement could be seen in invoice processing, call center efficiency, better decision making, and more. Information Governance is a competitive advantage in today's competitive business landscape.

KP: The parts of information governance that can be automated (security, business process management, records capture, etc.) would mean that it actually gets done. Relying on all information workers to manage it manually does not work. It also would mean that information management, security, etc. would be more reliable and auditable. eDiscovery (or FOIA or whatever processes require information to be found and presented) would actually work (i.e., be accurate, timely, and cost-effective).

CW: Of those processes that make up IG, automating some of them provides benefits in that the stuff actually gets done. Take applying metadata and classifying content as examples: without automation they likely aren’t done, which makes it infinitely more difficult to get a handle on information.

RW: There are a number of benefits to automating the information governance process, depending on the level of automation built into the system you choose. All of them have the advantage of reduced storage cost, increased efficiency and security over hard copy.  With advances in technology we have today, you can realize huge benefits with consistency and accuracy through automated categorization which removes the human element from the maintenance process. This has given us the ability to embed information governance into the daily business process to such a degree as to make it invisible to the organization. This is a major benefit as it removes the whole cultural acceptance part of the change management process for implementation.

What team or business unit will “own” IG in 5 years? How will that change the process and philosophy of IG?

NI: I don't know that any team or business unit should own Information Governance. Information Governance should be headed by an executive level position (eventually), likely the CIO, with a strategic Information Governance team that helps coordinate all information related activities throughout an organization. There are some that put forward the role of the "CIGO" or Chief Information Governance Officer, and while I think that would be ideal, I don't expect it to come to fruition. There is already a perception that between a CIO and a CTO that issues related to Information Governance should already be covered and I doubt that perception is likely to change any time soon.

KP: It largely depends on their business and sector, but I see a couple of trends: “Office of Information Management” and “Office of Information Governance and Records Management” or similar names. Information management and governance has to be owned by someone outside of IT, or else be in charge of IT. This shifts the focus from pragmatism (how much money can we save using technology, and how can we cut those costs, too?) to strategy (how can we get the most benefit from our information and protect it at the same time?). There really needs to be an executive leading it. A Chief Information Management Officer would work with the CIO (who would be better called a CTO in many cases), COO, etc. to elevate information to the level of strategic asset.

CW: I personally think it will still be in IT, under a CIO. What I’m hoping, though, is that the CIO really focuses on the Information part of the job, not the Technology.

RW: I am a big proponent of the IG Steering Committee for any organization. For information governance to be truly effective it needs to be part of everyone's daily business process. Establishing a committee comprised of members throughout the organization is necessary to elevate visibility of the program to its proper place. Information needs to be viewed as a strategic asset that is everyone's responsibility to manage and protect.

What major trends do you think will emerge in the information governance landscape in the next 18-24 months?

NI: Maturity is coming. There are many working to better define the space and actionable items related to Information Governance, our team at the Information Coalition chief among them with our flagship event The Information Governance Conference as a conduit for many of the conversations that are driving our profession forward. I would expect to see a methodology start to come to the fore, much like a defined project management methodology arose. We should begin to prepare for that type of maturity in our space and it would be wonderful if it comes in the next 18-24 months. We're working hard to move the profession forward and we want others to join us in that endeavor.

KP: A lot of emphasis will continue to shift toward Business Process Management (BPM). With its roots in quality management, information governance and BPM are natural partners. Auto-classification will still be a big thing, but I expect more organizations will realize they cannot simply purchase automation tools without doing the work of strategy, architecture, and governance to get it right and see real value.

CW: I’m starting to see more vendors talk about “governance as a service”. That’ll be interesting to watch.

RW: Organizations are continually looking for ways to reduce costs and take advantage of IG benefits. I believe migration to Cloud services for storage will continue to increase and adoption of cloud-based electronic document management systems will increase as well with more vendors improving their SaaS offerings and capabilities. Advances in technology are so rapid that I believe we will all be amazed at where we are in the next two years.

We would like to sincerely thank our roundtable of experts for taking time to share their thoughts with us for this educational blog post. 

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