Investing in Information Governance – what you need to know to get it right

Terry Smith, Intraversed

ESTIMATED READING TIME: 5 MINUTES

We’ve heard it many times from middle managers involved in information management and governance: We can’t get support for investing in information governance. The C-Suite just don’t get why it’s important.

We could also rephrase that as “those arguing for information governance don’t know how to defend their request for investment in it”.

Either way, great information governance isn’t getting done.

So, we thought we’d lay out our argument for investing in information governance and how to get that investment right.

Understanding what information governance really is and isn’t

Firstly, contrary to many popular ideas, information governance is not:

  • Just something you do for regulatory compliance. Or alternatively, it can be, but that is really wasted investment because you could get so much more for your money.

  • Something you need solely for risk mitigation. Misused and misunderstood information can cause a lot of legal, reputational and even financial risk, so mitigating that is important. But again, it can be so much more than an activity to “cover your butt”.

  • An activity that’s designed to deliver a single picture of where information is stored and how it moves through the organisation. Such diagrams can be helpful and can be a nightmare. But they do not constitute information governance.

So, a more comprehensive picture of information governance recognises that great governance:

  • Turns information created by a single functional area, for a single purpose, into a managed resource that can be accessed and leveraged throughout the organisation.

  • Saves time, effort and money by centrally managing these information resources so they are not lost and not created in duplicate by non-communicative functional areas.

  • Identifies useful information from one functional area that can guide plans and spending in other areas more efficiently.

  • Builds the foundations for cheaper and more successful projects.

  • Provides a path out of very siloed businesses and into a more unified, aligned and collaborative environment.

  • Delivers senior leaders with visibility over the quality of the information they use to make business decisions. It delivers them what they need to succeed.

  • In fact, delivers all staff with access to the information they need to succeed – meaning to innovate, collaborate, develop and assess the accuracy of their information-based work.

The Big Mistakes Most Leaders Make in Information Governance Investment

When business leaders don’t understand the power and capability that great information governance can provide for their staff, they tend to make several common mistakes that end up compounding the idea that it’s all a waste of time and money.

Firstly, they under-invest, assuming this should be a small task, involving a check list and putting out fires when necessary. This just isn’t the case and approaching it like this will never deliver ROI and may ensure governance is never done well and never quite meets regulatory requirements.

Secondly, they leave it to IT, the CIO or other staff who are likely to purchase a new piece of software, and assume that’s all it’ll take. This would be nice – if there was a miracle piece of software that could do governance for you. But it’s just not possible. Great governance requires people who are trained and given the right tools to do the task well. Put your business staff in the driver’s seat, and they will guide IT regarding their software requirements as they need it.

It should also be noted that data governance is not information governance. Both are important and should be invested in, and both will probably require software to happen effectively. But data governance tools will not deliver quality information governance. We think of these two like socks and shoes – the most effective, healthy, blister-free activity happens when you’re using both together.

Thirdly, they believe it’s a set-and-forget activity, rather than an actively managed and monitored community of information managers who run your business’s information ecosystem so it delivers quality information to senior leaders and staff alike.

Finally, they don’t understand the foundations of information management, so they don’t really know what they’re governing and what great governance will look like. We’ve written about the foundations of information (Culture, Language and Information Artefact Management) here.

Our Quick Guide to Information Governance Done Right

To avoid the mistakes outlined above, here’s the high-level roadmap to establishing governance worth investing in.

  1. Establish a governance community. This is a cross-functional area team of information managers. It should be comprised of staff who understand the way their functional area uses information, what they use it for, what they do with it and where they get their source data and information.

  2. The governance community establish governance frameworks for managing your information foundations – the culture, the language and the artefact management. These frameworks will guide the forward momentum of governance throughout your organisation.

  3. The governance community then begin developing a common language for the whole organisation, creating a glossary that is endorsed from the C Suite down as mandatory for all functional areas. This is key – don’t dismiss it. Not only does it begin to distil an information management culture throughout the organisation, but it also has a powerful ability to shed light on the root causes of existing information quality issues. In fact, we suggest language definition work begin with terms associated with the most pressing information quality issues or business needs currently being experienced.

  4. Establish the central management of information artefacts. These are any piece of information (reports, dashboards, webpages, spreadsheets, etc.) that carry significance to the organisation. This central management allows knowledge of these artefacts to spread beyond the confines of the functional area that created them. This allows both leveraging and identification of issues associated with that information, particularly where it involves differing use of language between areas. Staff will have the capacity to see details about registered information artefacts and raise issues to a central governance body where they can be addressed.

Other things to remember

Early on in this process you will likely need to work with your governance team to help establish capability by investing in education and training, both for them and your entire staff. Don’t skimp on this – it’s one of the best governance investments you’ll make.

The right software platform can streamline the process and be a crucial and effective investment. Where committees are struggling to keep up with the workload or even get governance activity off the ground, investing in specialists to help can be vital.

But without clearly understanding the goals, it’s all too easy to assume it’s an IT domain and let them purchase a software tool and never really deliver quality information governance.

Questions?

Let us know over on our Linked-In post about this blog. We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences with information governance, or answer questions about how to do it better.

Join the discussion on LinkedIn
Terry Smith, Intraversed

Terry Smith

Terry is a co-founder & Chief Education Officer at Intraversed. She spends her days helping information governance teams implement the Intralign Ecosystem, an award winning methodology that builds stable information foundations for reliable reporting.

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