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Q&A: Common myths of modern data management processes debunked

In this two-part Q&A, Jeffrey Ritter identifies five common, persistent 21st century information governance myths and explains why adapting data management processes to the digital age is not as radical as some think.

Data management processes have become more complicated in the digital age, but modern information governance doesn't require radical changes to existing strategies, according to Jeffrey Ritter, Esq. In this two-part Q&A, Ritter debunks five persistent information governance myths he says cause companies to struggle with 21st century data management.

Here in part one, Ritter defines information governance and discusses the first of these common myths.

What is a simple definition of information governance we can use as the basis to talk about these five myths?

Jeffrey Ritter: Information governance has three elements. First, it has rules. Second is applying those rules to digital information. Third, it has to have a business purpose that advances making money or preserving wealth. So, information governance is the rules-based management of digital information that advances an organization's wealth creation and wealth preservation goals. Once we understand information governance having a business purpose, we can address these myths.

Myth #1: Information governance has no economic ROI to the corporate shareholder.

Ritter: If information governance is all about creating wealth, then it does indeed have a return on investment. The reality is that we have to understand that business is driven by velocity: fast execution, fast analysis and the ability to make decisions with more accurate information. Every time we have to ask if information is accurate or if it can be trusted, our business decision making and our business processes slow down. The brakes are applied until we know we can trust the information.

When we govern our information effectively by applying the right rules, we reduce the time we need to evaluate information. We can rely on it with greater confidence, which means that time is compressed, decisions are made more quickly and that creates more profit. What's not to like if you are a corporate shareholder?

Myth #2: Modern search tools eliminate the need for governing the information.

Ritter: As we came out of the 20th century, everyone thought that we could type what we were looking for into a search box and find everything they needed. In fact, that is not the case. If all you are doing is searching the content, we all know from the dozens of pages that come back as possible responses that you still need a lot of time, which costs money. Today's search tools leverage how information has been classified, and that's what governance requires. You need to know how to classify information so that you can apply the rules. You can't apply the rules if we don't know what something is. As those classifications are being applied to digital information, the search tools are actually more powerful, but they only work if the classification is accurate.

You can actually tag data in individual cells in databases, or now even in documents using extensible business reporting language. All of those tags accelerate the searching, but it doesn't eliminate the need for governing. In fact, the search tools work better when the classification is done well, which is an essential first step to information governance. We actually find things faster when we govern the information rather than thinking we can just search for a toothpick in a haystack. It's still a big haystack.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this Q&A, where Ritter continues his discussion outlining the five myths of modern information governance.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Ben Cole, site editor. For IT compliance news and updates throughout the week, follow us on Twitter @ITCompliance.

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This was first published in July 2014

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