Torbz - Fotolia

Fresh look at governance required to maximize information as an asset

IGI founder Barclay T. Blair discusses lacking efforts to make information a business asset, and the initial steps required to maximize data value.

Information Governance Initiative founder Barclay T. Blair doesn't mince words when describing why he helped form the think tank and coninformatisortium, saying it is a response to the "abysmal" way modern organizations handle data. One of the issues the IGI is committed to is developing the "Chief Inforinmation Governance Officer" role, which Blair says is required for companies to maximize information as a business asset.

To help, the IGI is holding its inaugural CIGO Summit this week in Chicago, where Blair says attendees can expect interactive discussions about the importance of chief information governance officers and how to promote the role's development in their organization. Blair says the CIGO will be crucial as data-heavy businesses strive to extract value from their information and digital assets. In this Q&A with SearchCompliance editor Ben Cole, Blair discusses the Information Governance Initiative and why companies must start considering the CIGO role to maximize information as an asset.

Can you give me a bit of background on the Information Governance Initiative, and why you wanted to form it?

Blair: We started the Information Governance Initiative over a year ago to address the abysmal way in which our society handles its information. As our information continues to accumulate, and at astounding rates, most organizations haven't even begun to get a handle on the risk side of it -- let alone extract the value side. How we handle our information impacts literally every aspect of our lives: health, finances, privacy, our justice system -- to name a few.

We are not all doom and gloom, of course. We think there is a way forward. We share the belief that information governance is the best way to help organizations, and our society in general, to get information under control and maximize its value. That's why we started the IGI, a think tank and consortium dedicated to promoting information governance. We invite other like-minded people to join us.

Barclay T. Blair

Why do you think the "Chief Information Governance Officer" role is so important to modern companies' success?

Blair: Your company's information is a business asset. If you don't use it effectively or you use it wastefully, make no mistake: Someone out there is going to do just the opposite and gain an edge. As we move forward, you will need effective information governance just to stay competitive. 

Right now there is a leadership gap, and effective leadership is essential to doing the work of information governance. To the extent that companies have specific information functions in place, what we call "facets" of IG, they often operate in isolation from one another. Someone, a CIGO or whatever you choose to call that information leader, needs to be empowered with sufficient authority to tie all those pieces into an operational whole. If you can't do that, you can't do IG. Companies that do will leave you in the sidelines.

How has the information governance officer's role changed in recent years, as data has become both necessary to conduct good business but also a huge source of potential risk? 

Blair: I think the biggest change is that the information governance leadership role is starting to get the attention it deserves. People are beginning to realize that something critical is missing in how we handle our information and that the current leadership structure related to information isn't prepared to handle all of it. We are seeing the IG leadership role moving upward in the company to where it needs to be in order to have sufficient authority to address information governance.

When we spoke at the ARMA conference in San Diego last year, you discussed the need for companies to extract value from their data. How can businesses achieve this goal and what role do information governance professionals play in doing so?

Blair: This goes back to my prior response. Your business should look at information as an asset. The first step -- maybe the hardest but certainly most critical -- is to start thinking of it that way. If your company doesn't think of it this way, work on changing that mindset.

Like any business asset, it will have both a risk and a value side. Information governance professionals are the people who help you utilize your information as an asset. If you are a manufacturer, for example, you would think of certain machines as assets. You would have people who make the machines, run them and maintain them, with engineers who ensure that the whole manufacturing operation is working as a whole. Imagine if you didn't do those things or didn't give them enough attention? You might be able to run, but not well. You certainly wouldn't get the full value from them. Information governance professionals are the people, at various levels, who can help you do this with your information. The other neat thing, and where the analogy ends, it that you might also be able to convert some of your information into a commodity itself.

Let us know what you think about the story and role governance professionals play in manging informtion assets; email Ben Cole, senior site editor. For IT compliance news and updates throughout the week, follow us on Twitter @ITCompliance.

Next Steps

Hillary Clinton's use of a personal email account raises info governance questions

New digital assets force new approach to data management strategy

Dig Deeper on Document management software and compliance