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Principles of Holistic Information Governance – An Introduction

On March 20th of this year I wrote my first blog post as a member of Digital Clarity Group. In that post I mentioned the Principles of Holistic Information Governance (PHIGs) and how Information Governance and Customer Experience Management are inextricably linked. This post serves as an introduction to the PHIGs. In subsequent posts and white papers I’ll take a more in-depth look at the PHIGs and how Information Governance is critical to Customer Experience Management

 I used to think that people were an organization’s most important resource, but I don’t think that’s the case any longer. You see, some things have changed over the years: 1) Organizations tend to put more time and sweat equity into making sure they have the right information than whether or not they have the right people; 2) Missing key information causes more consternation than when a key person is missing (vacation, prison, run off with boss’s spouse, etc.); 3) Organizations will happily jettison people they think are no longer required, but hold on to useless information for eternity; 4) Organizations don’t pay the people that manage information nearly enough.

If a person unexpectedly leaves their job, the organization copes and moves on. If key information vanishes right before planning a campaign … different story. So why do organizations suck so bad at managing information like the asset it is? There are dozens of excuses, none of them valid. What the PHIGs are designed to do is to help remove the excuses and get organizations governing information to derive maximum value. As for better pay for Information Governance (IG) practitioners … fight your own battles people.

With all the focus and angst over information, organizations continue to spend more on HCM (Human Capital Management) and employee engagement than they do on holistically governing information. Survey after survey indicates how seemingly important information is to senior executives. In most cases, however, when it’s time to pony up, their actions belie their words. Ironically, Information Governance is a key contributor to employee engagement and satisfaction; just ask anyone that’s spent hours or days looking for information they need to do their work, but can’t find it.

What is Information Governance?

It would be wonderful if there were a pithy, one sentence definition of Information Governance, but there isn’t. I often use “Good governance is good business”, which is true as a tag line, but like Customer Experience Management, Information Governance is complex and requires commitment from across the organization.

Information governance is all the rules, regulations, legislation, standards, and policies with which organizations need to comply when they create, share, and use information. Governance is mandated internally and externally. Done correctly (i.e.: holistically), Information Governance allows organizations to conduct business better and meet all their information related obligations while minimizing risk. Done incorrectly (i.e.: in a silo’d manner), Information Governance may help organizations meet obligations and reduce risk, but business efficiency is sacrificed.

Information Governance is about making sure everyone in the organization has the necessary information to execute their jobs, without exposing the organization to unnecessary risk or overwhelming employees with irrelevant information. IG requires that the information being surfaced matches the information consumer’s (internal or external) context.

Why do Information Governance?

We can find everything we have, we just don’t know if we have everything we’re supposed to find.

The above was a statement made by one of the directors involved on an Enterprise Content Management project I was working on in 2006. Back then I don’t think the idea of Information Governance went far beyond IT security and perhaps Service Level Agreement (SLA) management. Even today, IG is not really thought of in an holistic way, applied to managing all aspects of an organization’s information assets. However, that’s slowly changing.

In order to make the most effective and efficient use of information, it needs to be properly managed and governed from cradle (creation / capture) to grave (destruction / archiving). Holistic Information Governance makes organizations info-efficient by providing the means to keep what’s needed and legally dispose of what’s no longer necessary. Holistic Information Governance results in faster, better decisions, reduced information related risks, reduced legal costs, and reduced information storage costs. More importantly, holistically governing information leads to a better bottom line. Whether the bottom line is improved by increasing sales, reducing product development costs, lowering customer acquisition costs, or reducing legal fees really depends on the nature of the information and the business activities it supports.

Info-efficient – it’s just a way of saying that people get the information they need to do their jobs, and not stuff that distracts and clutters.

Principles of Holistic Information Governance

The first thing you need to understand as you learn about the PHIGs is that no distinction is drawn between records and non-records. From a business execution perspective the difference is irrelevant, from an evidentiary perspective it’s minimal since any information you have can be used against you in proceedings.

Whether the information is structured, semi-structured, or unstructured (there`s no such thing) makes no difference. Format and storage location are similarly unimportant to the PHIGs, as are the devices (personal or corporate) used to create, edit, or engage with the information. Whether the information is digital or not does not matter. Whether the information comes via social media, enterprise tools, or a spoken conversation is unimportant. The only thing that matters is whether or not the information is needed by the organization to either conduct business or meet obligations.

The PHIGs are based on understanding how an organization uses information to conduct business. Understanding has to happen at the micro (department, process) level and at the macro level to be truly useful. Not all information is equal for all organizational stakeholders; therefore it cannot be governed the same way across the entire organization. Would a marketing department put the same value on campaign collateral and results as the HR department would? Of course not.

The PHIGs are not an information approach to Information Governance; they are a business approach to Information Governance. The intent of the PHIGs is to help organizations analyze their information assets and needs, and apply the right level of governance based on how the information is used / needed to conduct business. The PHIGs are also about exposing where potentially beneficial information is, and how to get at it.

I’ve had some less than ideal experiences with organizations that I conduct business with on a regular basis (one of them since 1993 – I’m still with them because of a lack of viable options).These organizations have plenty of information about me, my preferences and my habits. The issue is that the information is not shared with relevant internal stakeholders in order to improve the customer experience. Applying Principles of Holistic Information Governance gives organizations the details they need to effectively leverage information and surface it to other stakeholders that have a legitimate interest in it. In short, information, properly governed, makes for a better customer experience.

Coming Up

Next up in the PHIGs journey I’ll cover PHIGs 1 and 10 (Information is an Organizational Asset and Make Someone Accountable). In the meantime, feel free to check out the PHIGs in real life as presented during the 2014 AIIM Conference.

Contact us to find out more about Information Governance, the PHIGs, Customer Experience Management, and how they all fit together.


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