IG is Everyone’s Problem Now

In my February column, Making the Case for Information Governance we looked at three reasons that information governance (IG) make sense:

  1. We can’t keep everything forever;
  2. We can’t throw everything away; and
  3. E-Discovery.

In this column, I want to build on this list by adding three more reasons why CIO should be investing in IG:

Reason #4: Your employees are asking for it if you just listen

“When you start to actively address your organization’s information overload challenges and give people the guidance and tools they need to work more effectively, amazing things happen. They start to make better decisions. They finish projects faster. They generate new ideas. And they drive business growth.”

– Basex Information Overload Exposure Assessment

IG makes sense because it helps knowledge workers separate “signal” from “noise” in their information flows. By helping organizations focus on the most valuable information, IG improves information delivery and improves productivity.

Study after study shows that most knowledge workers feel overwhelmed by the amount of information they have to deal with. One AIIM International study found that “sheer overload” is the biggest problem with email as a business tool. [i] Another study says that most professionals spent way too much time looking for information and feel they could not handle any “increases in information flow.”[ii] Yet another study claims that companies in the U.S. lose $900 billion each year worth of employee productivity due to information overload.[iii]

My experience with implementing IG programs has taught me that, after a period of initial resistance, most knowledge workers appreciate the clarity that IG policies and technology provide. Rather than struggling to invent their own “filing system” and worrying about the trouble that they may face if they get it wrong, the majority of employees quickly understand the value of IG and make it part of their daily routine.

The deluge of poorly managed, redundant, irrelevant, and unclassified information that most knowledge workers face today is huge and growing. IG can improve productivity and reduce the impact of information overload by helping organizations:

  • Classify information better so it can more easily be found.
  • Get rid of unnecessary information so employees don’t have to weed through it.
  • Better target and personalize information for individuals and communities.
  • Provide better access to information while still meeting confidentiality and information protection requirements.
  • Assign resources and technology to information commensurate with its value.

Reason #5: It ain’t getting any easier

“By far the biggest mistake people make when trying to change organizations is to plunge ahead without establishing a high enough sense of urgency in fellow managers and employees. This error is fatal because transformations always fail to achieve their objectives when complacency levels are high.”

– John P. Kotter, “Leading Change,” Harvard Business School Press, 1996.

IG makes sense because it is a proven way for organizations to respond to new laws and technologies that create new requirements and challenges. The problem of IG will not get easier over time, so organizations should get started now.

Every day the pile of unmanaged information in your organization grows. Every day the habits of your knowledge workers get more ingrained. Every day new technologies enter your enterprise and create new sources of unmanaged risk. Every day technology gets more complex. Every day courts and regulators grow more sophisticated and demanding when it comes to information management.

Time will not make the information management problem any easier.

More regulation of information management is expected.

Beginning as early as the 1970s (with privacy law directed at the federal government) and intensifying in the early years of the new millennium (with Sarbanes-Oxley and the revised Federal Rules of Civil Procedure), governments, regulators, and standards bodies have demonstrated an increasing appetite for the regulation of IT and information. Increasing federal and state regulation has driven demand for IG products and services.

The current administration, as well as regulators in nations across the globe, have demonstrated an increasing appetite for regulation; an appetite that seems only to be increasing in the wake of the recent global economic crisis that is widely seen as having a root cause in inadequate government oversight and regulation. This is likely to drive legal and regulatory changes that will create new IG requirements for organizations.

And information is getting more complex.

The growing business use of Web 2.0 technologies such as blogs, wikis, and social networking tools, along with other developments such as cloud-based applications, are making information management more challenging. The emergence of such technologies is a challenge to trational command and control methodologies and thinking.

The reality today is that each knowledge worker is his or her own records manager. Responsibility for the creation and management of information is highly distributed and a new generation of Internet-based tools and applications only encourage this trend.

In addition, technologies like Google Wave create new difficulties. Products that blend together formerly discrete communication, collaboration and content creation tools challenge the long-standing focus on “the document” and usher in a world where we no longer manage discrete piece of information. The “wave” of information created by these tools is an ever-changing Hydra that pulls information from a variety of sources and blends them together into an environment that cannot be “retained” or managed using traditional approaches.