Information Governance — The Secret to Monetizing Data

With the increasing value of data and more tools to process and analyze information than ever before, companies with information governance and master data model programs are outpacing their peers.

Simply storing information without a detailed road map (information governance) for how the data can and should be used is not enough.

  • How does data benefit the entire company?
  • What core business processes or outcomes hinge on accurate data?
  • What innovations will not happen without new data?
  • What data can be re-used throughout the organization?
  • How much time and energy is wasted by inefficient data practices?

I get to interact with a lot of companies who are on the leading edge of brilliant use-cases for innovating processes and workflows with data. Want to know what makes them successful?

I’ve thought about the commonalities in the way these companies work and here’s what I’ve observed:

Information Governance Monetizes Data

They are more strategic in their planning. They align overall company vision with very specific business use-cases and ensure that IT and business initiatives are in harmony.

Without exception, they commit to a formal process for data-driven decision making. And by setting up feedback loops, they see continual, and faster improvement.

They’re proactive with change management. By socializing their ideas through various internal channels, they get buy-in from everyone affected. This allows them to track progress and predict their successes.

They crave feedback from users and process outcomes. By measuring performance, they drive improvements through necessary process and workflow changes.

They execute better. And sometimes with an almost fiendish desire for optimization. By paying close attention to changing business environments, they’re quick to implement changes to the infrastructure required for data-driven results.

What to expect in this article:

While the ideas of information governance and master data models are not new, what is new is that companies are now accessing, creating, and storing more data than ever before. Now is the time to get organized, and view information governance as the single most important initiative for business growth and innovation.

Why is Information Governance Important?

Data is an asset. While you may not be able to show it on the books (yet), companies who figure out how to productize and commercialize their data are more profitable.

In our industry, we call this Enterprise Information Management (EIM), or Information Governance (IG). It’s a well-coordinated initiative that spans business units and time. It’s not a one-off project: you can’t hire it, or buy it, but you can achieve it!

Start Small with Information Governance Initiatives

Successful EIM/IG initiatives start off small. It seems that by limiting the scope, silos of information and processes are easier to deal with.

You have to look at your organization as a whole and ask yourself “ What are our information management capabilities? And how willing are key people to move away from current data management practices and tools?

Your dream of effectively managing an enterprise-wide master data model can be a reality. It simply takes the right resources and a measured approach to get there.

How do you compare to your peers when it comes to information governance?

Most companies today are more reactive to information governance. They operate more-or-less from a standpoint of solving information-related problems.

Take Charge of Enterprise-Wide Information Governance

Lack of competitiveness or experiencing business losses seem to be the main drivers to becoming more proactive with data governance and management.

What you’re shooting for is enterprise-wide information governance. You’ll know you’re getting closer as data management becomes more aligned throughout the organization’s software applications, processes, and strategic initiatives.

EIM and IG is the path to true data efficiency and getting the most out of it requires a lot of planning. You have to ensure that you’re creating an opportunity that capitalizes the business value of data.

It’s not just about sharing information or efficiency gains. Remember, the goal is productizing and commercializing your data. This is a radical new concept in the realm of managing master data.

Your EIM/IG program will be as unique as the processes and products that are a part of your current success.

How to Implement Information Governance?

Research firm Gartner, Inc. suggests 7 building blocks for success. They are:

  • Vision
  • Strategy
  • Metrics
  • Governance
  • Organization and Roles
  • Life Cycle
  • Infrastructure
7 Tips for Successful Information Governance

1. Vision

So what’s the big picture view? Can you see how information governance will transform data into a legitimate asset that fuels enterprise-wide goals? Maybe you can relate to one of these statements:

  • I agree that information is power, but it’s locked away in silos — we argue about a single-source-of-truth
  • Our culture and leadership just keeps getting in the way of IT’s attempts at information management
  • We encourage information-availability across silos and applications because it streamlines product development and customer support
  • Leadership is championing information management best practices, and we’re leveraging data for enhanced analytics and fueling innovation
  • Our business strategy is entirely depending on information management, and we view data as one of our most important products
Information Governance Requires a Strategic Vision

Regardless of where you are in your journey, it’s critical to maintain a vision for where you need to go.

Your organization’s goals will be nearly impossible to achieve without a vision of how the integration of data, people, and processes drives success. You need buy-in from all areas of the organization, especially senior leadership.

A practical way to get started is to pick a business mission that clearly benefits from information governance and build out a strategy from there.

2. Strategy

Your roadmap to success must include sponsorship from organizational leaders. And you’ve got to build a plan that works.

This is the execution I mentioned that sets companies apart. See if one of the scenarios below matches where you’re at:

  • I don’t know what data we have because it’s hoarded as a source of power, and leadership doesn’t seem to care
  • We do share data…eventually, but only when departments are required to collaborate on projects
  • We have a Chief Data Officer who is championing information management and the roadmap to get us there
  • Our individual departments are viewed as data-centers with all the resources needed to support our EIM vision
  • Data and analytics is an integral component of our organization’s top-level strategy, and data is considered a corporate asset

To execute on strategy, you’ll need strong data and analytics leadership who understands that advances in technology will spur significant future economic growth. Responsibility for managing your company’s data must be clearly defined and supported.

Information Governance is all About Business Outcome

Articulating strategy in terms of business outcome is key. For example, business growth, profits, cost and performance optimization, efficiency, compliance, and risk management.

3. Metrics

As Peter Drucker so famously said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” And, as W. Edwards Deming said, “In God we trust, all others must bring data.”

These two quotes sum it up. You must be able to measure your performance. What metrics and goals do you have for information management? See if you can relate:

  • We aren’t really tracking anything, and what we do measure is purely subjective and has little organizational value
  • We invest very little in financial metrics but do use some basic stats to justify certain expenses
  • The metrics we track are mainly related to tracking project efficiency; they don’t directly support overall business strategy
  • We track distinct metrics for product quality, financial health, and risk, and tie this information to business value
  • Intended business outcome is directly tied to information management related metrics

The right metrics for EIM/IG must tie back to budgeting, return on investment, and supporting your company’s top-line goals. How will you show that information management improvements directly affect overall organizational performance?

4. Information Governance

What is information governance? It’s more than just ‘store everything!’ A healthy system includes a documented plan for how decisions are made regarding your organization’s data.

How is it acquired or created, stored, archived, or deleted, and how will it be used? And for a plan to be successful, how it ties back to enterprise goals and processes is important.

Want to test your information governance? See where you fit in below:

  • We mostly govern our data based on industry regulations, and we don’t have a single-source-of-truth for the majority of our data
  • Each department controls their data silos without a central policy or plan
  • We’ve identified core information assets and integrate some data / metadata with a goal of structuring additional types of data
  • We have an information governance program which provides quality data for creating better business outcomes
  • We’ve fully adopted EIM, all information is fully inventoried and focus more on the value of data than quality

Information governance is more than a policy or decision-making framework. Its ability to move an organization to the point where data priorities are based on business need versus IT or regulatory requirements is startlingly powerful. You must also consider how to actively enforce it.

5. Organization and Roles

The reason focusing on organization and roles is so important is that it helps establish data stewardship as a business-led initiative.

Information Governance is Not Just IT’s Responsibility

In some organizations, the IT department has the primary accountability for information governance. A successful EIM/IG program requires a healthy cross-section of skills and perspectives from the entire enterprise.

Success happens when governance moves beyond the realm of database administrators to a more centralized and controlling role such as a Chief Data Officer. This person will lead the efforts and specify additional roles like information architects and data curators.

And as the business value of data fully emerges, the creation of an information product manager will ensure even greater focus on productizing and commercializing your data.

6. Information Life Cycle

If information is an asset, it must have a life cycle. When data is simply stored in silos and integrated as needed, its value is uncertain.

Information Life Cycles Should be Business-Centric

This approach adds regulatory risk from accidental or improper handling of data. But more than anything, it prevents your organization from realizing its full potential.

Information life cycles should be business-centric processes or detached IT workflows. By optimizing the value of information across the enterprise, you ensure that data is fully managed according to its business value. This also reduces risk by creating a defensible program for the retention or disposal of information.

Your processes should include the actions necessary to assure ongoing data maintenance and quality management.

7. Infrastructure

As a highly valued asset being stored and transferred to and from the enterprise, your information requires a highly optimized infrastructure. Disparate, application-specific technologies limit the performance and interoperability of data.

Weaknesses in infrastructure create a ripe environment for reactive IT spending, misuse of data, and worse — catastrophic data loss.

The optimal infrastructure is elastic — a dependency on dynamic cloud services. It is an environment where big data, analytics, content, and business intelligence all execute on purpose-built platforms. The strategic difference is focusing on information governance capability versus individual technology solutions or tools.

In Summary

Information governance is more than a single decision, the initiative of a group within your organization, or the implementation of new technology.

Your biggest hurdles will be related to internal politics, and departmental silos.

The clear path forward is a determination to ensure that data delivers increasing value in organizational change, business outcomes, and innovation.

Focusing on the 7 building blocks for success will ensure long-term success.

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