The business case for information governance management and strategy

Trouble getting the C-suite to invest in information governance management? Information governance expert Jeffrey Ritter offers three steps to help.

For decades, information management professionals have struggled to make the business case for investing in innovations, new technologies and improved management processes. Have you imagined the day when you can achieve a different outcome and secure the investments needed to truly achieve effective information governance? Are you wondering what arguments are persuading some companies to make significant commitments to support this...

new direction?

Jeffrey RitterJeffrey Ritter

Here are three strategies that are proving effective at convincing senior management to invest in information governance management.

Recognize the economic value of information

Companies use information as the essential fuel with which to make strategic plans, monitor the performance of their assets, and identify and control changing dynamics and risks. Information governance delivers data that enables such business governance decisions -- which make or break a company's financial performance -- to be made more effectively.

Business decisions involve risk when the information on which the decisions are being made is not quality information. But what qualities are important when making business judgments?

In the digital, wired, global landscape in which any company operates, success is increasingly dependent on acquiring, using and distributing information with velocity.

  • First, the information must be complete. When key information is missing (or taking too long to find), the resulting decision is flawed. Governance enables all of the information to be available and in the timeframes required by the decision makers.
  • Second, the information must be authentic. Research indicates that decisions do not just require access to the information; the decision makers also invest significant time in assuring the authenticity of the information. What was its source? What has been the history of the information? Who has altered the information?
  • Third, the information must be validated. Few of us make decisions relying on only one source of information. We often seek confirming or contrasting information to enable us to improve our confidence in the accuracy of the information. Companies that invest in governance and improve the authenticity of their digital assets significantly reduce the need to validate the information. Why? Because implementing information governance management controls help assure that what is the "original" source of information is also authentic and accurate.

The value of governed information is measured by the confidence with which business decisions can be made when relying on that information. We have developed case studies that allow companies to measure all of the hidden costs of securing complete, authentic and validated information. Those costs become new targets that investments in information governance management can successfully attack.

Create velocity for information

In the digital, wired, global landscape in which any company operates, success is increasingly dependent on acquiring, using and distributing information with velocity. In the same manner that decisions require complete, authentic and validated information, any time a company receives information from others, or provides information to customers, business partners, suppliers or regulators, that information transaction must be validated:

  • Inbound information can slow down the business decisions requiring that information if your company has too many questions to ask in a given timeframe. For example, if a law firm takes three weeks to conduct due diligence on the information from a proposed joint venture partner, that is three weeks during which the transaction itself has not generated new revenue. Strong information management governance influences those sources of inbound information and, as a result, improves the trust you can place in that information and the velocity with which you can make the related decisions.
  • Outbound information slows down the revenue that is often associated with the information when the recipient raises the same issues. Just think how much more market resistance any eBay or Amazon seller experiences if they are not able to provide information about their prior performance, customer satisfaction and any related data that enables you to choose the right, best retailer for the product you want to buy.

In 2012, I constructed The Velocity Principle as a way to explain this concept. The Velocity Principle states that "the velocity of information is proportional to the transparency of its governance." In other words, information moves faster the more we know about how that information has been governed and managed throughout its lifecycle. Asking all of the questions, and often struggling to provide the answers, has a direct impact on everyone's shared commitment to creating new revenue from the relationship.

Even when you are providing outbound information to regulators or authorities, such as courts, for e-discovery, the same values emerge. The recipients still want to assure themselves of the reliability of the information for their purposes. If you cannot provide transparency, then the interactions slow down, and the costs go up. This is one of the key lessons from e-discovery cost explosions: the need to document, and to be able to explain, how information has been governed in order for the data to be accepted as "evidence of the truth of the matter."

Expand governance to all digital assets

One of the most costly aspects of information governance is chasing and catching the explosions of data that result from new innovations in IT architecture, new applications, new cloud services and new data sources. All of this is particularly true for unstructured data and the operating logs that computers populate with gigabytes of performance data. In the past, none of that data was viewed as valuable; now, that data is often the best investigative target for finding out the "who, what, when, where and why" questions that drive internal and external investigations and business analysis.

More on information governance management

Big data forces new approach to data management strategy

Tips to incorporate top-down, organization-wide information management

A single change in corporate organizational charts can make all of the difference. That change is putting the information management governance function at the table in all enterprise IT governance processes. The information governance lead knows how to ask the right questions in the design process so that new data assets are governed from the outset of any new launch. Everyone can hear and resolve the concerns about what the rules need to be for governing the new data. By embedding those rules in the design process, enormous headaches and costs can be eliminated.

About the author:
Jeffrey Ritter is one of the nation's experts in the converging complexity of information management, e-discovery and the emergence of cloud-based services. He advises companies and governments on successful 21st century strategies for managing digital information with legal and evidential value. He is currently developing and teaching new courses on information governance at Johns Hopkins University's Whiting School of Engineering and Georgetown University Law. Learn more at
www.jeffreyritter.com.

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.

This was first published in October 2013

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