What role does governance play in driving Information Management strategy?

August 21, 2017

The way organizations handle their data has become a make-or-break decision in the digital economy. 

Digital transformation has moved rapidly from being a good idea for organizations to an absolute necessity which is critical to their survival. As established companies and startups jostle for space and attention in the digital economy, there is now an urgency required for organizations big and small to make changes to their information management systems. These changes can profoundly improve the experience for customers and will streamline their operations in order to make it sustainable. 

What is information Governance?

A critical component of transformation is in the realm of information governance (IG), which refers to the holistic use of processes, roles and metrics to transform information into a vital and valuable asset. Yet only three percent of respondents in a recent AIIM survey cited their IG as ‘outstanding’. 

AIIM is a global, non-profit organization that provides research, education and certification to the industry worldwide. In its State of the Industry 2017 report, AIIM wrote that “managing and recording what the organization knows, what documents have been ingested, what decisions and commitments have been made, and what results are achieved, is essential for improvement and success.” 

Managing Big Data is Hard

The way that teams manage the vast reams of big data produced at work has never been more important. That data, by its very definition, can unlock great insights which can transform the way an organization works if applied correctly. But it’s extremely difficult to do, and to get it right requires every member of a team to broadly understand how they should be handling data, creating content, and interacting with the cloud. 

The report found that when it comes to the cloud, seventy-one percent of users surveyed said that “without information governance in place, the cloud will become just another chaotic mess like their file-shares and they will be no better off than they are now with the exception of accessibility to the chaos.” That statement should be a real wake-up call to CTOs and management. 

The processes used to govern and manage information should be viewed as critical to the health of an organization. AIIM found that one in three users said that there would be “‘serious disruptions” to their business in only an hour if the content applications that they use at work went down for any reason. More than one in ten believe that the major disruptions would occur within fifteen minutes of an outage! 

Many companies are beginning to realize how dependent they are on good data, and have embarked on a journey to secure and organize it better. As a result, we are seeing more active integration of projects across departments, and less siloing of critical data.  Multi-channel inbound information is still very difficult to manage but results are improving through better processes and systems and by updating mobile and remote access capabilities. 

Fixing Search For Organizations

A recent project undertaken by AI Foundry highlights the ways in which updated access control can change things for the better. The client required the migration of approximately 12TB of data from one server to another. Working with standard retention policies, we were able to transform the usefulness of the information that the company was storing and make it far more accessible in the process. 

One third of the data was deleted as it was of no value to the client, while the second third was archived for deletion after a certain time, according to regulation. Of the 12TB that AI Foundry was tasked with handling, only one-third was eventually migrated and secured with the correct user and group permissions to the new server.

Before this process was done, everyone in the company had access to all the data. Yet despite all the access, we found that employees were barely making use of the data, due to the fact that it was badly organized, confusing and slow to deliver results. 

A few months later, AI Foundry got a call from the project lead saying, “Hey Sid, great job but what exactly did you do to the data?” and I thanked him and asked why he asked that question. 

His reply? “It’s weird but, for the first time in ages, the search engine actually delivers useful results.”

I was thrilled because that’s what it’s actually about. 

If information is not managed properly, then users feel it because they can’t use it or share it to make informed decisions about what to do next. So it either slows processes down to a crawl, or they stop trying to access data outright and make impulsive, uninformed decisions. AIIM found that 27% of respondents declare that the data in their systems is never deleted. 

After the new server was setup, one of the more senior IT managers asked a rather pointed question: “Have we broken our security model? Why is everyone finding what they need when they couldn’t before?” It was music to my ears. 

The migration effort and proper securing of digital content has a massive upside. Getting rid of so-called ROT—redundant, outdated, and trivial content that piles up and clogs our servers—makes it much easier for search engines to hone in on current, valuable, relevant content. Securing data (at a group level,  for example) also “cleans up” the universe of possible content. 

If you aren’t authorized to see something, it should have no impact on the content that you do have access to. It shouldn’t be able to clog your search results and drown you in irrelevant data.

Turning Big Data Into Smart Data

The percentage of documents that are relevant to all employees is minimal. As AIIM’s Governance and Compliance Report for 2017 clearly states, “Reports of data loss and security breaches are at an all time high, yet not all are the result of external hacking and in fact the result of internal staff, whether intentionally or unintentionally, exposing data beyond corporate walls to those who do not have the right to access it.”
Simply making the right content available to the right users at the right time is the key to good governance. By enforcing stricter IG standards, companies see improved search quality, and an effective return on investment (ROI) on any content or search engine they have developed.

Furthermore, users really notice the difference, along with the IT and finance departments, each of whom will be delighted with the results for different reasons. In this way, the process snowballs.

There has never been a better time to turn that dark data clogging your servers to smart data, migrate the important stuff to the cloud, and take advantage of cheap/opex storage models that will improve your search result. 

The ability to produce a good IM strategy and then make it deliver results requires a combination of sophisticated solutions, business process acumen, and real-world experience.

Good governance is transformational for an IT department, and its entire organization. It starts with capturing incoming information as early as possible, understanding what to do with it and who will benefit from it the most, and then managing the lifecycle of that information through to the point where it is no longer useful and needs to be archived or deleted.  


Governance and Compliance in 2017Download the AIIM Industry Watch Report to explore how organizations are addressing their governance and compliance challenges by looking at the business case, the automation of governance and compliance, identifying the locations of greatest risk for breaches, and more.  
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