The past six months I have talked to a wide variety of organizations, helping them assess their content management efforts, and in the process gaining a better understanding of how the average organization addresses its content challenges. All of them are working with an existing system, and all of them are struggling.

The problem isn't technology. None of the organizations started with the same content management solutions, but all of the stories are the same: Inconsistent adoption outside a few fervent believers. Some organizations are ready to start over. Others want to try again with the same technology. The answer that I’ve given them all? Choose any technology you want, but if you don’t put some information governance in place you'll be in the same position again and again.

More than Records

When I talk to people about information governance, many immediately think about records management and e-discovery. Both are important, but they aren't the starting point. Information governance efforts begin at the point of information creation and capture. Whether it is a record in a database or a budget in Excel, information needs to be governed from day one.

It begins with identifying who is responsible for the information. It continues when you decide how that information will be managed through its lifecycle. That could be as simple as saying the CFO is in charge of financial information and that all financial information belongs in Microsoft Dynamics and all supporting content belongs in Office 365.

All information needs to be slotted appropriately and sometimes that can cause political issues. Create and implement policies around the information as processes that balance a blend of people and technology. Communicate these efforts to the organization, explaining not only how the processes work but also how the processes will benefit them and make their lives easier.

If you can't explain how you are making people's lives easier, you're doing technology wrong.

Getting Started

Information governance can be intimidating. And it sounds expensive. You can't buy information governance, you have to invest some time. There are some basic high-level steps that you can take:

  1. Pick an Owner: If nobody is responsible for getting it done, it won’t happen. What is needed is someone (ideally not part of IT) who understands the business. You could create a Chief Information Governance Officer (CIGO) as the Information Governance Initiative (IGI) proposes, but that is excessive for many organizations
  2. Build a Team: This is not a one person effort. Form a group consisting of business, legal and IT representatives. This group should be able to speak to all the ways information is used throughout the organization. If there is a CDO, either Data or Digital, that person needs to be part of the team.
  3. Explain the Mission: Draft a charter. The shorter and more concise the better. It should be something anyone in the organization can read in a few minutes and understand why information governance matters and the role they play. The president of the organization needs to not only buy into the mission, they need to be the one to share it with the organization. Nothing insures a president will take the time to understand the ‘why’ of information governance than knowing they will have to field questions about it.
  4. Get to Work: Identify information, systems and owners. If things are a mess, prioritize efforts with the understanding that not everything can be done at once.

There are a lot of details but it isn’t that complex. Once established, a proper information governance program is self-sustaining.

Applying This to Content

Too often organizations deploy systems without adjusting them to how the organization does business. Rules and policies are applied in a haphazard manner with little attention paid to how the system is used. Frequently no follow-up is made to determine if modifications are needed to improve the user experience.

Information governance does more than assign an owner for each system: it starts a conversation about how technology can improve how the business works.

There's no shortage of consultants like myself who are willing to perform assessments from now until the end-of-time. Eventually, I would like to visit organizations to find out that they’ve outgrown their technology and need help taking things to the next level. Telling clients that the problem with their system is them and not the technology is not how I want to spend my career.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by  naydeeyah