The challenges associated with governing, archiving and managing corporate data are tougher than ever before. Regulatory agencies, finance, HR, legal and senior execs demand immediate access to data stores. Requests include the ability to assemble historical records, support strategic decision making and research corporate archives.
Forward-thinking companies are adopting Information Governance (IG) as a strategic discipline by embedding its principles into corporate policy. IG is also subject to continued change especially with respect to regulatory policy or legislation; hence, flexibility and adaptability are a must. A well thought-through IG plan should be tailored to the specifics and nuances of one’s environment rather than a “one size fits all” approach that most product vendors seem to encourage.
Generally, a company’s digital footprint is “owned” and managed by corporate IT whose modus operandi is to evaluate known vendors’ mass production one-size-fits-all solutions, features and functions and try to match them to the specifics of the strategic plan from IG. Predictable results are: no decisions made, multiple point solutions implemented, pushback to IG to settle for good enough, etc.
Some application vendors create professional services departments in an attempt to tailor mass-produced software to specific needs. Very high costs, spotty execution and inflexible solutions are common here.
Institutionalizing Information Governance must satisfy the following eight basic requirements or tenets.
- Broad scope. While each department and business unit is responsible for maintaining its own records, the corporation is ultimately responsible for oversight, data validity, and security of all content. The IG plan will systematically deploy and enforce the governance policies established by corporate to each IT manager across departments and business units.
- Scale to meet requirements. Not only has the volume of data required to operate businesses increased exponentially, but also external sources such as social media and market data generate new content daily. The IG solution will have the technical ability to archive limitless amounts of data. Practical limitations may be imposed by hardware restrictions or corporate policy decisions.
- Embrace data variety. At its simplest, data is maintained in structured, unstructured and semi-structured formats. However, multiple databases, various spreadsheets, numerous email accounts, retired systems, emerging social media and big data clusters present exponentially more challenges than resolving data formats.
- Embrace data complexity such as content with embedded or linked objects, interactive Web pages, virtual reality models, etc. The IG solution must be engineered for an open systems environment and should be capable of integrating complex content, either directly or through APIs.
- Functional obsolescence. Over time, the number of proprietary databases, retired applications, improperly captured documents, obsolete operating systems and decaying media tend to grow if not properly managed. An Information Governance policy must utilize a “future-proof” archive including the cleansing and restructuring of existing data vaults. The revised governance policies will ensure that data from current systems will be properly captured, indexed and managed.
- Enforce data retention policies. While the primary focus on data archiving is on storing and retrieving data, the appropriate destruction of data is equally important; in fact, the failure to destroy data as permitted can carry potential liabilities for the company. The solution, supported by appropriate governance policies should systemically analyze various retention policies, destroy data as prescribed (with advance notice to stakeholders), ensuring that data stores are effectively and efficiently maintained over time.
- Fidelity. An authentic record is one that remains as reliable and free from corruption as it was when first created. The record should maintain context, ownership and chain of custody.
- Defensible destruction. Retaining data past its statute poses enormous risk and liability. Organizations are obligated to provide any and all data in their possession in a legal inquiry. Additionally, outsiders cannot hack what is not there, thus limiting the exposure to breaches. A comprehensive IG solution should cater to managing retention policies as well as legal/regulatory holds to be able to defensibly destroy data.
By adopting Information Governance as a strategic discipline and deploying an information archiving platform, businesses will achieve a number of benefits including the following.
- Reduced risk of non-compliance. Properly managed and governed information provides transparency into enterprise data, and secure access enables stakeholders to readily e-discover required information.
- Decreased data management costs. Modernizing some data stores and leveraging open technologies along with RESTful APIs to access additional data vaults reduces the costs associated with maintaining non-essential servers, software, warehouses and personnel.
- Increased business value. Decision makers are able to leverage big data to improve financial performance or, comprehensively search manufacturing and marketing information to improve competitiveness and/or support legal and audit inquiries.
Strategic advantage. Most importantly, implementing and employing an effective Information Governance program will allow an organization to leverage data as a strategic asset while better preparing for change today and into the future.
Srini Mannava is founder and CEO of Infobelt LLC, an enterprise technology provider based in Charlotte, N.C. The company provides the Infobelt Governance Platform, a technical solution that can take on all of the above challenges head on. You can contact him by email and follow him on LinkedIn.