In my younger years, I often enjoyed spending time doing puzzles with my father. More often than not, these tended to be fairly complex, with many pieces needing to be assembled to successfully complete the picture. What began as jumbled chaos could eventually be pieced together with enough skill and patience, all coming into focus after enough concentration and work. As fun as it was, it’s all too analogous to the data management environments many businesses are currently facing.
Imagine, if you would, that my father and I were the business units of a large company, and the puzzle pieces were emails, files, and other data floating around in the system. Assembling the puzzle is akin to collecting documents for a legal case or other required business task, but instead of being able to reach in to a box and find all the components needed, you have to search all over your system, through duplicates and unrelated files to find what you need before even considering putting your case together. The data ecosystem, rather than being a 1000-piece jigsaw fresh from the hobby shop, is a tattered second-hand purchase replete with missing pieces and transplant pieces from other games… and it’s been conveniently scattered throughout the entire house. Sounds fun right? Suddenly the “game” is no longer a game: especially when the end goal is to avoid a multimillion dollar fine/lawsuit rather than having some father-son bonding time.
The Information Governance Initiative (IGI), unlike me as a child, loathes a needlessly complex puzzle. The Initiative is a best practices sort of think tank: composed of people from across industries that share the goal of efficiently managing a company’s information while avoiding the risks and costs of failing to do so. Through the creation of a Chief Information Governance Officer at large corporations to coordinate the Information Governance process, large corporations can get out ahead of things like regulatory compliance, risk management, eDiscovery and data governance, before they become an issue through a lawsuit or subpoena.
The IGI seems to be most interested in advancing knowledge of Information Governance through clarifying IG as a concept, especially since there seems to be so much ambiguity in the term. Much like the term “cloud” a few years ago, everyone seems to define the term as they see fit, leveraging its nebulous qualities to magically make their product or service an information governance solution. Review tool for eDiscovery? Boom, information governance. File share backup? Information governance. Dusty old bookcase? You guessed it. Maybe that’s stretching it a bit, but I’m sure you get the point.
But IG is much more than a constellation of point solutions. It’s a vast unifying concept of knowledge and information resources embedded within the enterprise. Specifically, IG does not just stop at eDiscovery or records management, but extends all the way through to privacy, risk management and compliance with respect to both structured and unstructured data. The recently-released annual IG Initiative report suggests that the idea of Information Governance is really starting to gain traction amongst companies, as organizations ranging from small to medium all the way through large enterprises are pursuing projects to address these issues.
As a ZL employee, I live and breathe information governance. It’s a big picture, strategically-driven issue to tackle, and many businesses are starting to see that it’s not something that can be solved with the “firefighting” approach of purchasing individual systems for individual problems. I’ve seen lots of companies that struggle with the difficulties of what we call “silos”, where the data is spread throughout various repositories and databases, unable to be reached through a single search. The IGI largely acknowledges the flaws in the siloed approach and does not define a company that has silos as “governing” their information. That is because silos do not allow for companies to fully enable their business efficiency and create optimal value. Just ask Sean Krier, enterprise records manager for the Washington State Department of Health (pg. 14, for those of you taking notes at home).
Our approach, using a unified platform for data, addressees these issues, providing full optimization of the data management process for corporations, as unified architecture eliminates silos and ensures that the data will not “outgrow the provider.” Given the long-term investment that information governance solutions represent, it’s important to choose one that scales not only to present data volumes, but to the larger volumes that will inevitably accumulate over time. It will be interesting to monitor the progress of Information Governance to see if it reaches the 2020 predictions of the IGI: the organization predicts that the market will continue to grow and become more clearly defined, and that Information Governance will finally receive the C-level attention it deserves.