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Getting real about information governance

Jason Federoff | Dec. 19, 2014
Even mature organizations can use IG to reduce risk and increase value. After all, everything from families to snowflakes operates under governance.

An enterprise information governance (IG) program is supposed to help organizations reduce costs and risk while improving access to valuable information, but most mature enterprises find the idea of implementing such a program to be daunting. It doesn't have to be. By understanding the true value to the enterprise of information assets, and by taking a simple, step-by-step approach to making the necessary changes, effective IG can become a reality.

"Governance" is a framework or set of controls by which groups and phenomena operate. And it's everywhere. Just about anything you can think of -- your family unit, your circle of friends, automotive travel, the food industry, your homeowners' association, trash collection, shopping at the mall and even snowflakes -- has governance. Snowflakes? Yes, an established framework governs the different types of snowflakes that are created and what they look like based on the temperature range and water saturation level in the air. It's the governance of nature that dictates what type of snowflake you get.

My working definition of enterprise IG is a framework (policies, procedures, processes, controls and metrics) that enables the enterprise to manage its information assets in a way that is consistent with the purpose of creating value and that also results in risk reduction and compliance. Understanding how an IG program can do this is the key to successful adoption.

IG and value creation

Although most new companies understand and embrace effective IG, mature organizations often struggle with the idea that IG is about more than just regulatory compliance, that information is an enterprise asset that needs to be proactively managed for increased business value and cost and risk reduction. They typically haven't defined the value of information assets to the enterprise or focused on the rules for managing them. They rely on what has worked in the past, leaving information management to individuals and individual business units. Also, believing (mistakenly) that more information is always better for decision-making, these organizations haven't considered the impact of collecting ever more information or the challenges that duplication and multiple sources of truth present. This makes the governance challenge even harder to overcome because you can't manage what you can't measure, and you can't protect what you don't know you have. Finally, you're less likely to accept change that's forced upon you by regulatory bodies than when you're self-motivated by the desire to create value.

Mature organizations must realize that governing information is about turning information into valuable assets: "If I knew, I could." Newer organizations, such as search engine and social media companies, epitomize this, but every company can benefit, and it's never too late.

Focusing on value creation enables organizations to achieve a greater return on the investment in the IG program, including more efficient business processes, leading to real-time business insight and more effective policy enforcement


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