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Information Governance – Now Is The Time To Act!



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With 2016 well underway, many industry analysts and consultants have offered their thoughts on the year ahead. I’d like to share just one more that I believe will be the single biggest priority for every organization. I predict that the volume of information will continue to grow exponentially, and as a result, every organization will need to strike a balance between the risks of having unmanaged information, with the opportunity to leverage the value of that information. Organizations that are able to find that balance can achieve significant costs savings, they can minimize both legal and business risks, and they can create optimal processes aimed at using information for business value.  Welcome to the age of information governance (IG)!

There are many definitions for information governance but the one I feel is most succinct is from OpenText: IG is “about efficiently and effectively managing an organization’s information assets to derive maximum value, while minimizing information-related risks.” The goals of IG strategies and best practices are threefold – to reduce costs, to manage risks and to optimize the value of information.  Some of the underlying principles of IG are:

  • Ungoverned information can be risky and can drive up costs.
  • Well-governed information overcomes that challenge and uncovers opportunities to drive business value.
  • IG encompasses all content regardless of format or repository.
  • IG is helping us transition from the information age to the knowledge age.

The growth of data is the number one driver for IG processes. EMC Digital Universe Study (with research and analysis by IDC) quantifies and forecasts the amount of data produced annually. Their most recent study, The Digital Universe of Opportunities reports that the digital universe in 2013 was 4.4 zettabytes – which means the number of bits in the digital universe almost equaled the number of stars in the physical universe. Their prediction for the digital universe in 2020 is 44 zettabytes - a growth factor of 100. Contributing factors to this growth are trends such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and enterprise mobility. Further exasperating the problem are unmanaged emails and silos of critical business information stored in aging line of business applications. Also contributing to the problem are legacy content management systems that can no longer keep pace with the growing volume, variety and velocity of information, and paper-based information that remains either on paper or has been digitized and remains unmanaged as TIFF, JPEG or PDF files. 

With this predicted growth in the volume of information, comes five main business challenges:

  • impaired user productivity;
  • high costs to manage and store this information;
  • the inability to find the right information to demonstrate compliance with regulatory guidelines, for litigation and e-discovery requests, and to deliver a positive customer experience;
  • enhanced security risks; and
  • the inability to leverage information as an asset for predictive insights and business intelligence.

Without going into elaborate statistics about each of these, it’s the overwhelming combination of the aforementioned trends, and the resulting challenges, that have everyone talking about IG. How can these business challenges be overcome? Successful IG strategies involve both best practice and technology. Best practices include:

  • Developing an IG committee with all the key stakeholders including information management, line of business, legal, compliance, security and information technology professionals.
  • This committee works together to develop a unified IG program that meets the needs of the entire organization.
  • Together they develop information governance policies and procedures that address not just managing information but leveraging information as an asset.
  • They develop a communication strategy to create awareness for these policies and procedures.
  • They enforce the use of those policies and procedures across the enterprise.

Underpinning these best practices is technology. Foundational to IG is having a solid enterprise content management (ECM) platform to capture, manage, store, preserve and deliver information to key organizational systems. ECM gives structure to unstructured content. While in a short article it is impossible to address all of these disciplines, I would like to highlight that the critical first step in this process is to capture the right information. Information capture involves digitizing any paper-based information, crawling and analyzing all of the organizations repositories to find relevant and valued information, classifying it, and then connecting that information to the right people, processes and systems.  Information capture coupled with the other core ECM disciplines is helping organizations with numerous IG initiatives including e-discovery, risk management, enterprise archiving, predictive insights, business intelligence, and adding value to enterprise applications.

So how can you learn more about information governance best practices, strategies and technologies? The two leading industry associations who are committed to helping information professionals manage and leverage their information within a governance framework are AIIM and ARMA. They offer market intelligence, resource materials, training, certifications, and they offer both online and in-person educational venues – conferences and seminars – that can help you get started with or improve your information governance program.


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