In recent weeks, I have spent a significant amount of time discussing the benefits of implementing an information governance strategy with clients.  Although these discussions may have different starting points, there are often similar rationales driving the investigation into information governance.  Specifically – two key considerations that are discussed by clients looking to implment an information governance strategy are:

  1. How can I reduce the costs associated with managing my data?
  2. How can I use my data to drive better decisions within my organization?  

Starting with the first concern, rising costs associated with managing data often stems from the lack of policies and processes in place to manage the data.  Clients often discuss issues around multiple versions of the truth when it comes to the data within their organization.  These multiple versions of the truth exist may exist from a duplicate data standpoint, as well as in inconsistent business rules. 

For instance, if two different parts of the organization (let’s say sales and finance) are classifying the same product in two different ways, there is likely to be an issue when attempting to report on the information.  Although this is a simplistic example, the problem only compounds when you then start to examine additional data inconsistencies when new parts suppliers are brought into the mix or the impact to the conversion effort when the organization acquires another company.  

What is often lacking is basic information governance, which can be realized through a centralized business glossary (or data dictionary) that is readily available to document the single version of the truth within a given data domain.  If changes to the data definition or business rules are required, there should be an approval process defined.  As a part of the approval process, it is critical to have a means to determine what other implications the change will have (to data, systems, processes, etc) to ensure that the change does not have negative ramifications on other business processes.  By having a defined governance framework in place, there is a natural reduction in costs associated with managing data that should occur.  These cost reductions stem from leveraging the centralized business rules/glossary which should help reduce the often manual process in resolving duplicate or inconsistent data issues.

Although the second concern around using data to drive better decisions within an organization is often called out separately by clients, it is typically related to the first issue.  If we can begin to address the issues associated with multiple versions of the truth (both with data itself and the definitions of data), we should improve our ability to confidently report on the data.  If questions arise, we can trace back to our business glossary how data is defined and ultimately who is responsible for the data (both from a business and IT perspective). 

The improved reporting and decision making capabilities also have a secondary benefit of improved customer satisfaction.  The “customer” in this case can be internal as well as external.  For the internal customer, satisfaction may occur due to having clear visibility into the data and data definitions.  For the external customer, increased satisfaction may be as basic as not having multiple versions of my account when I call in to place an order. 

In each of the recent client discussions, the common missing piece was having an information governance strategy in place.  The question I often start with is where do you store and how do you disseminate agreed upon business rules, data definitions and process documents throughout your organization?  If the answer to this question is, “We don’t have a centralized repository” I would recommend starting to look for solutions that can be leveraged to capture and maintain the metadata (or data about your data) within the organization. 

Although a centralized data framework is only a portion of an overall governance strategy, the ability to leverage repeatable processes and have a single documented version of the truth is often a key hurdle that can become the gateway to a more robust information governance strategy within an organization.