Information Governance is a balance between the risks and opportunities of corporate information. It has the objective of turning information into a valuable corporate resource, while compying with legal and regulatory stipulations including data storage times and document retention periods.
It is the delicate balance between delivering targeted, accurate information when and where it’s needed and controlling infrastructure, administration and security costs.
There is an almost limitless expansion of information in business. Today, information exists in a number of places, in a number of formats, on a number of systems. Take historical data as an example. Often, it is available in the original paper format, it has also been scanned and stored electronically. In many cases, there exists multiple inconsistent versions of the same document.
Although most companies already have some guidelines for handling information, they are not consistently applied or managed uniformly. They have grown up to address a specific information challenge, leading to a patchwork of solutions and creating information silos that undermine the centralised management approach of Information Governance.
Key areas for consideration for Enterprise with Information Governance include:
Regulatory compliance is the primary reason most organisations embark on an Information Governance programme. A global organisation is faced with an almost mind-blowing number of mandates on how business content has to be stored and managed. All business information – orders, invoices, business correspondence – have different storage periods depending on purpose and geography.
In some industries, information must be retained and accessible for up to 100 years. In fact, the US government mandates some document have to be retained indefinitely. As a minimum, the organisation must comply but also be able to show it is complying with all regulations that are relevant to its business.
Information Governance provides the centralised control of the information lifecycle – from creation to deletion – to ensure that information can be produced when required to demonstrate compliance. However, compliance is also a business opportunity. It allows an organisation to manage its information based on industry best practice and also identify the areas where preparing information for compliance may allow for its use to drive competitive advantage. ‘Active compliance’ ensures an organisation can adapt to new regulations quickly in order to seize market opportunities.
Improved decision-making and Big Data
Business intelligence is now a mature technology but it primarily anaylses the information in structured data. It is surprise how small the proportion of information in an enterprise is held in structured data. Unstructured data – documents, presentations, emails – is a much larger percentage.
Big data looks to encompass all information within the organisation. Exploiting Big Data can help enterprises improve the quality of the services they offer, improve profitability and reduce the cost, time and risk involved in areas such as eDiscovery. Big data is part of the information management jigsaw. It provides the analytics to improve decision making but it needs the context of Information Governance. Setting Big Data projects within an Information Governance framework allows the enterprise not only to identify trends and market possibilities, it sets out which information is most important to exploit these findings, where it should reside and who should have access to it.
Improved customer relationship
Improving the customer experience is an important driver for Information Governance. There are two key elements to this. The first is the quality of service. Information underpins every part of the customer relationship, from initial research, to placing the order to consuming the product or service. The better an organisation can utilise that information to improve service quality the better the customer experience.
The second is the quality of customer support. Customer service staff should be able to quickly find all the information they need on the customer and their transactions. This enables the organisation to answer more customer queries first time on the first call. By placing accurate information at the disposal of business users – and directly to the customer for order tracking and self-service – the better the customers experience that will increase loyalty and repeat purchasing.
Improved business agility
Most enterprises have recognised that their organisations – and the information held within them – exist in isolated silos. A great deal of work has been done to re-engineer process to break down departmental barriers. Information management has, perhaps, lagged behind organisational structure. Business divisions, personnel, finance, legal and IT must all be brought together so that the enterprise can create a ‘single version of the truth’ – a consistent view of up-to-date and accurate information that is of value to the business.
Everyone must understand how information is managed throughout its lifecycle. This removes unnecessary and useless information from corporate systems and makes access to information for business users more consistent and effective. The result is that the business can more quickly adapt to changing market conditions or implement new business initiatives across the organsation.