Information Governance has the potential to transform a business. It can help to release the full business value of information. However, like any large business transformation programme, there are a number of challenges that any organisation will face as it looks to successfully implement information Governance.
Below is our list of the most common pitfalls to avoid:
Organisations often view Information Governance primarily as an IT project. This is an error. IT is, of course, a major element of any Information Governance programme. But, Information Governance is, first and foremost, about business transformation. As with any change programme, understanding, integrating and adapting it to your corporate culture is the key to success.
Although Records Management is a key element of Information Governance, it is not the same thing. There is much more to Information Governance than managing the creation, storage, archiving and disposal of documents. In addition, Records Management usually covers unstructured information only and is limited in its ability to handle email or social media content. Information Governance is about how business value is derived from corporate information – how and why the information is shared and used.
There is a simple truth for all large company change programmes: if someone at the top isn’t driving it, your programme is much less likely to succeed. Recruiting an engaged sponsor at board or C-level will help the programme changes become accepted, and faster, throughout the organisation.
Most organisations form a steering committee – often called the Information Governance Council – responsible for the planning, implementation and management of the programme. It is common to recruit staff primarily from legal, compliance and IT to join the committee. However, the committee needs the correct balance across the organisation if the strategic goals of the programme are to be met. It should also include business people who will be directly affected by the programme, and those who have the clearest view of the actual business value of different information sets in the company.
Buying the latest tools and software alone will not be enough to solve an organisation’s information challenges. It is the final piece of the Information Governance jigsaw. There are good solutions available – such as Enterprise Content Management – but until the business value of your corporate information is clearly understood and the strategy and procedures developed to allow your organisation to fully exploit its information, selecting the best IT solution will be difficult. Technology supports effective Information Governance policies and procedures, it does not replace them.
Information Governance will always require some degree of change in the way that people within the business work and deal with information. The further away the new approach is from how they work today, the more likely it is that the change will be resisted. Your Information Governance programme should take time right from the outset to understand information usage patterns and then design procedures that will deliver information in ways that people will find acceptable. One example would be the ability to categorise and tag information automatically so that doesn’t become the responsibility of the individual creating the document. But, before you proceed, read the next pitfall…
In attempting to provide information in a way that is natural for business users, caution is required as it is possible to unintentionally undermine the initial purpose of the programme. Information Governance must ensure that the organisation gains control of all information at all times. This will always require some degree of centralisation in both the information and management.
Business is increasingly networked with organisations working closely with partners and suppliers. The exchange of information to all parts of the networked enterprise has to be managed within the Information Governance programme. This is especially true when seeking to outsource business elements to Cloud-based service providers.
Many organisations start their Information Governance programme by trying to re-engineer all of their legacy data. For an organisation that has been in existence for any length of time, this is a daunting task. It is also highly likely to fail as a great deal of time and effort will be expended to deliver very little value to the organisation. A far better approach is to develop a clear idea of where you want to get to and work backwards. If a strong foundation for Information Governance is put in place, an organisation can begin with small projects that deliver quick wins. One suggestion that has worked for some organisations is to begin with the email system of a business division where the benefits of the approach quickly become apparent to everyone involved. However, do not try to set unrealistic timelines and deadlines – an average Information Governance programme can take 3 to 5 years to get fully up and running.
Business doesn’t stand still so neither can Information Governance. Regulations are constantly changing. Business goals are constantly changing. An Information Governance programme needs to be flexible, continually revised and improved. Your Information Governance committee should meet regularly – quarterly at a minimum– with clear action points set and the programme performance measured.
Business users must clearly understand why the Information Governance programme is being introduced and the value it will bring to their roles. They need to know how to work with any new systems. Senior executives and managers also require training, and they will want to understand the Return on Investment (ROI) that your Information Governance programme will deliver. They also need to understand why Information Governance should underpin a great deal of the activity that their business unit undertakes. For example, General Counsel and lawyers need to be trained to understand that any commercial transactions or relationships may include issues of Information Governance.
It’s as true in Information Governance as it is in life, if the bar is set too high, the organisation will fail. Before getting started, sit down with business leaders and decide on realistic Information Governance goals for your organisation. Even if the system you implement is not one hundred percent perfect, it will be a vast improvement from your current state.
Making assumptions is dangerous in any line of business. In Information Governance it could be deadly. If your organisation is unrealistic about the benefits, when those benefits fail to appear the programme will, at the very least, lose momentum. If your organisation is unrealistic about the costs, budget can quickly disappear without anything to show for the investment. Take time to to realistically estimate what the organisation needs to create a successful Information Governance programme, what it will deliver and when.