In any organization, the inability of various decision-makers present to get on the same page can lead to trouble. It doesn’t take too much effort to find examples. For instance, in an NFL franchise there are typically three major decision-makers, the owner, general manager, and head coach, with the respective degree of clout typically in that order. Should there be major differences in opinion between, say, the head coach and the general manager, the head coach is often relieved of his duties. Likewise, should the GM and owner not get along, than the GM often finds himself looking for another employer. Aside from a decline in workplace rapport, a disjointed relationship between decision makers can cause issues and impede the making of decisions that benefit the entire organization.
The enterprise, much like an NFL franchise, has multiple players that need to work in concert in order to implement an information governance (IG) solution. Often these players consist of folks such as the Records Manager, the General Counsel, the IT department, a Compliance Manager, other high-ranking officials in the company, and even the general business users. Since the successful implementation of an information governance solution requires these parties to work together, it is imperative that they all “buy in” to whatever project arises.
You may be wondering, “Must all parties really be on the same page? Each group is entitled to their own specific concerns and needs.” To be fair, a point solution school of thought suggests that you can implement a successful information management program by picking a best-in-breed tool for each needed function. This is a specialist vs. generalist argument; if you have X number of defined problems, it’s better to have X number of specialists tackling the issues rather than one all-around generalist. When you need to make the field goal, you call on the kicker rather than a lineman… right?
This seemingly intuitive mentality, however, can be destructive to a comprehensive information governance initiative. Enterprise-wide cooperation is critical because of the multiple sectors involved, and – more importantly – their need to leverage the same data without confounding each other. There’s inherent overlapping of roles and functions, an overlap that becomes problematic when there is overlapping IT infrastructure. The issues of compliance, records, eDiscovery, storage, and more could each be handled separately, in theory, but that would just create what we have long recognized as data silos. Silos are created when there are multiple solutions involved to solve the various problems in the enterprise. In such a case, there might be a compliance policy solution, a separate records solution, a separate eDiscovery solution, and so on down the line. This sort of scenario makes it impossible to attain comprehensive information governance; silos lead inevitably to duplicates, processing bottlenecks, incompatibility, disparate search, and other issues. Collectively, these problems lead to loss of data control. On the other hand, a unified approach—where the compliance reviewer, the general counsel, and the records manager can access all the data from one point—lends itself well to eliminating the aforementioned silos, consolidating information in one place instead of leaving it scattered across many places.
Despite the aforementioned benefits to a unified approach to information governance, there are certain obstacles to implementation that must be addressed. First, getting everyone throughout the enterprise on the same page is an admittedly tough act to juggle. Different schedules, levels of importance, budgets, and motives can make it difficult for all the parties to participate in the manner required to attain a cohesive IG strategy. Accepting the increased technology needed for IG in certain contexts can also be a challenge. Since the concept of IG is still relatively new in the grand scheme of things, the parties involved could still be content with the “old way” and would not understand or want to understand the shift. That is why it often takes some sort of event to trigger a full scale IG implementation, a significant “pain” that needs to be felt, for the budget to include what is undoubtedly a long-term investment.
The industry is definitely well on its way to more and more instances of complete information governance, as departments throughout an enterprise realize the need to eliminate situations where different solutions are managing different components of enterprise data. A “unified” approach allows the data to be more easily accessed by all the different departments and improves the ease with which information flows, ultimately enabling the information to be properly utilized to best aid the organization.
So to put it in football parlance, you could say that specific data management functions are the individual positions on the field. It’s easy to complain that you need a better quarterback. But a whole-team approach, one that optimizes the unique mix of strengths and weaknesses on the field for the best possible outcome, is much closer to a unified enterprise IG approach. Does it take more planning and cooperation? Sure. But the positive outcomes for focusing on a full-team strategy are more long-lived and more successful. Go get ‘em, champ.