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Avoiding information governance failures

May 29, 2020

Information governance (IG) continues to be priority for organizations with very high-risk exposure various regional as well as industry-specific compliance laws. The impact on brand reputation hurts more, given the publicity any such incident can get on the social media platforms today.

Before looking at the steps that organizations should take to avoid failure in IG, it is essential to understand its many different facets.

Information Governance is a subset of corporate governance and includes critical concepts from records management, content management, IT and data governance, information security, data privacy, risk management, litigation readiness, regulatory compliance, long-term digital preservation, and even business intelligence. This also means that it includes related technology and discipline subcategories, such as document management, enterprise search, knowledge management, and business continuity/ disaster recovery (Smallwood, 2019). As this is the broadest form of governance for information organization deals with throughout their business operations, any gap here can have a rippled impact on other governance setups, including IT and data governance. Information Governance has a direct impact on the reputation an organization can establish and maintain in their consumer base.

Organizations today face stiff competition and thus cannot afford to let an IG failure be the reason for losing business or limiting their growth. Given the vast horizon IG needs to address, there are many reasons for it to fail. We have seen a tremendous number of examples in recent years, Based on observations of such failures and anticipating other potential issues, the following points can be taken to avoid failure of the IG:

  1. Establish sponsorship and accountability: Provide the right level of sponsorship to the IG The organization’s senior leadership must provide this sponsorship and enable the rest of the leadership team to define accountability among this team. The rest of the organization needs to have a precise definition of the role they plan and must be provided with necessary training, tools, and support to be able to carry out their roles effectively.
  2. Define process and measure it regularly: Archival and dissemination of content are often not done coherently. Procedures are ad-hoc and undefined. The archive may not even be prepared to ingest, archive, and disseminate content (Proença et al., 2016). The process for drafting, finalizing, storing, and retrieving the information has to be clearly defined. Some flexibility can be provided to departments to design a process that works best for their department. However, any such process must meet standard guidelines . The process must be run at appropriate frequency to guide any precautionary or reactive steps identified.
  3. Establish adequate infrastructure: Many organizations don’t make the infrastructure a priority when establishing an IG program. Such an initiative requires infrastructure that aligns closely with the processes, communications methods, and monitoring protocols that are being established. For example, a global enterprise would mostly benefit from a cloud-based infrastructure considering the easy accessibility of the information and simplified access controls management. Infrastructure investments can go a long way in providing scalability to the IG initiatives.
  4. Build effective communication channels: An effective IG program requires seamless communications at all levels of the organization. Employees should be able to understand the strategy and approach taken and contribute their recommendations and ideas. The lack of such a communication platform challenges the sustainability of even the most well-established governance programs.
  5. Integrate with all upstream and downstream initiatives: While IG is a broader governance initiative, it needs to integrate with other upstream and downstream governance initiatives including corporate governance, IT governance, data governance, and others. These integrations provide a foundation for the IG program, help it develop, and take its underlying principle to a deeper level.
  6. Measure and monitor: IG is an ongoing program, not a one-time project. IG provides an umbrella to manage and control information output and communications. Since technologies change so quickly, it is necessary to have overarching policies that can manage the various IT platforms that an organization may use (Smallwood, 2019). The IG program requires to be regular measure and monitored. Organizations need to continue evolving the program based on the learnings of other organizations as well of own.

The effective information governance program requires senior leadership sponsorship and commitment. There are rapid changes taking place in industries and technologies, and thus the IG program needs to be agile. The recommendations made here can help organizations to accomplish this. While regulatory compliance is a crucial objective for an IG program, the improved reputation in the market space has been observed to be another significant outcome of a successful IG program and thus highly recommended for the organizations.

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  1. Proença, D., Vieira, R., & Borbinha, J. (2016). A Maturity Model for Information Governance. In N.Fuhr, L. Kovács, T. Risse, & W. Nejdl (Eds.), Research and Advanced Technology for Digital Libraries (Vol. 9819, pp. 15–26). Springer International Publishing.
  2. Smallwood, R. F. (2019). Information Governance: Concepts, Strategies and Best Practices. John Wiley & Sons.