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Tips for explaining information governance strategy to management

Discussing an information governance strategy's value and potential with senior management can be a challenge. Here are five tips to help explain the attributes for success.

Each new wave of technological innovation presents the same challenge: Explaining it to senior management. Maybe someone heard about information governance at the gym or while serving on a board of directors. 

Perhaps management has asked you to prepare a briefing on an information governance strategy for them but directed you to “keep it simple.” There are several proven strategies for discussing the value and potential of IT governance with senior management.

Strategy No. 1: Describe information governance as technology empowering management

An information governance strategy is an extension of the best outcomes of good management. Both require, and leverage, clearly defined principles for acceptable behavior, measurable attributes of how to evaluate success (or failure), and the presence of incentives and sanctions for good (and bad) outcomes.

Introducing an information governance strategy does not present a new business model. Instead, it delivers a structure through which we can better advance good management by using IT to improve the efficiency with which we do business. Current technologies allow management to track and manage the most valuable asset of any business -- the information on which we make decisions, investments and measure our success -- with unprecedented control.

Strategy No. 2: Gain control of uncontrolled costs

Studies report that the largest uncontrolled cost in business is finding -- and validating -- information.  This isn’t new to this digital century -- from the dock worker to the chief financial officer, we all spend time finding the information we need to do our jobs.

One recent study of the legal profession estimated that each worker (lawyer, secretary, clerical professional) spends about 30 minutes per day finding information. If a law firm has 400 associates billing at an average of $350 per hour, that’s $70,000 a day times 220 business days, or $1.54 million per year. Some of that, but not all, is passed to the clients. No wonder legal fees continue to climb. The firms haven’t achieved effective information governance.

An effective information governance strategy enables us to gain control of those uncontrolled costs. Governing our data better improves our ability to find what we need when we need it, and to have greater confidence in the reliability of that information for the decisions we need to make. That lowers our operating costs and improves the speed with which business decisions convert into revenue events.

Strategy No. 3: Simplify your information governance strategy

Like modern democratic states, information governance has many of the same elements. Significant broad policies need to be adopted at the board level (like a governing senate or council) and the detailed rules need to be expressed by the administrative offices (including CIO, CISO, compliance, legal).

Technologies today enable rule making to be much more granular and specific, and allow us to install measurement and reporting capabilities to assure consistent execution with greater precision. This rule making creates and applies very specific rules to very small types of data, and that is the essence of information governance.

Strategy No. 4: Begin with the elephant lurking in the room

For years we have adopted innovation strategies that are incremental: Start small, achieve small successes and move to larger challenges. With information governance, however, the best opportunity to demonstrate value persists as an enormous problem in most companies, including finding and managing historic information with legal value.

Quite simply, getting governing control of your historic records best prepares you to implement governance on current and future information assets. While the phrase e-discovery can be used to excess by law firms and vendors to promote services, the reality is that the current demands in litigation and enforcement for historic business records have uncovered the inadequacies of investments in records management. Every dollar spent to find information in a lawsuit is a direct hit on the bottom line of corporate earnings.

By dealing with e-discovery, corporate teams will need to collaborate, define shared objectives, establish common means of measuring performance and create project plans requiring assets and resources from their different domains. These are the very skill sets and political navigations that must be in place for more focused information governance projects to succeed.

Introducing an information governance strategy … delivers a structure through which we can better advance good management by using IT to improve the efficiency with which we do business.


When those skill sets and navigations are not yet in place, starting small allows the project to be lost. Start with the elephant lurking in the room, and the rest of the more refined information governance projects become much easier to achieve.

Strategy No. 5: Assume accountability

Someone has to be accountable -- in fact, that’s what information governance imposes. So, in talking about your information governance strategy, step up and assume accountability for getting it right within your organization.

Information governance will become the next true point of differentiation among competitors if you deploy good governance principles. These include clear rules, measurable attributes of performance, transparent reporting and incentives for success. If these principles are achieved, you can have confidence in the path forward and your contribution to the success of the organization in getting it right. 

Jeffrey Ritter is the founder of Waters Edge Consulting in Reston, Va. Write to him at

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