The Greatness of Information Governance
I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong.” -- Abraham Lincoln

Governance is good -- in fact, it is great. Governance, and specifically IT Governance, is defined as, “putting structure around how organizations align IT strategy with business strategy, ensuring that companies stay on track to achieve their strategies and goals, and implementing good ways to measure IT’s performance. It makes sure that all stakeholders’ interests are taken into account and that processes provide measurable results.”

Governance helps us define the rules of the Digital Asset Management (DAM) road -- a framework to ensure that program goals are met during implementation and in the future. Governance is the best way to manage and mitigate risk if it starts with a roadmap to ensure success of implementation during the first iteration and measurement tools to become formalized in the operating model. By developing a project charter, working committee and timelines, governance becomes an ongoing practice to deliver ROI, innovation and sustained success by building collaborative opportunities.

Participation from all levels of the organization is key. In particular, engaging the leadership by involving them in the big decisions, holding regular reviews and keeping them talking about DAM, will yield the greatest the benefits from DAM. IT Governance is the best way to manage change from implementation to maintenance of the technology itself.

However, we have reached a time in our history when we must implement Information Governance in order to move our information into the future. This is something that is both more holistic and equally, more specific than IT Governance and needs to address the data and information throughout your organization. Information Governance is the structure around how organizations align information management beginning with metadata, taxonomy, policy development, stewardship and technology to serve the creation, use and distribution of information.

The decision to implement a DAM system is the right step in the right direction to gaining operational and intellectual control of your digital assets, and it is to be taken seriously. Any successful DAM implementation requires more than just new technology -- DAM requires a foundation for digital strategy. Creating the whole DAM solution and connecting it throughout your business means that assets can generate revenue, increase efficiencies and meet new and emerging market opportunities.

DAM is more than a sum total of its parts. Digital Asset Management must include a detailed review and analysis of all the contributing factors: digital assets, organization, workflow, security, etc. It takes a considerable effort to get everything in its place -- there is no magic here.

Corporate governance is concerned with holding the balance between economic and social goals and between individual and communal goals. The governance framework is there to encourage the efficient use of resources and equally to require accountability for the stewardship of those resources. The aim is to align as nearly as possible the interests of individuals, corporations and society.” -- Sir Adrian Cadbury, Chairman of Cadbury and Cadbury Schwepps.

People, Process and Technology

Governance in the context of information is the ongoing practice of making and setting information policy, establishing standards and making decisions that will be enforced to achieve a unified, coherent information discovery experience. The goal of such governance is to:

  • Manage digital assets with Digital Asset Management (DAM)
  • Federate and manage metadata
  • Manage people, process and technology to support metadata standards

The governance structure establishes the strategic, operational and technical decision-making process required to ensure the DAM team excels in its mission. DAM governance provides strategic leadership, establishes priorities and policies, and is accountable and transparent to the organization. In addition, the governance standards should include a core metadata standard, proscribed workflows and lastly, governance practices that will be carried out on an ongoing basis.

Information Governance Practices

Every organization has a different culture and will naturally take a different approach to Information Governance and how it is applied within an organization. Content owners must be engaged in upholding standards of practice and actively participate in the ongoing development of the taxonomy, metadata standards and governance practices to ensure the continued success of the enterprise search experience. The following elements must be maintained and updated with the site content:


Metadata, simply stated, is information that describes other data -- in essence, data about data. It is the descriptive, administrative and structural data that define your assets.

  • Descriptive metadata describes a resource for purposes such as discovery and identification (i.e., information you would use in a search). It can include elements such as title, creator, author and keywords
  • Structural metadata indicates how compound objects are put together, for example, how a digital image is configured as provided in EXIF data, or how pages are ordered to form chapters (e.g. file format, file dimension, file length)
  • Administrative metadata provides information that helps manage an asset. Two common subsets of administrative data are rights management metadata (which deals with intellectual property rights) and preservation metadata (which contains information needed to archive and preserve a resource).

Controlled Vocabulary

A Controlled Vocabulary is for drop-downs/pick lists. The use of “preferred terms” is a good way to provide authority and consistency to digital assets. Each tag could point to a different topic, but, fundamentally, it’s the same principal element of the subject under review that is relevant. If the topic is “Country,” and you only have eight countries with which you work, then those eight countries are your controlled list. Control, and stronger yet, authority, is needed to describe your assets. You need to know what it is you are describing and how it may best be described.

Content owners should create a retention policy and retention schedule that quantifies the lifecycle of the asset. Because content varies in its nature, timeliness is a relative term, and site owners need overarching rules that define retention decisions. In order to succeed, people and /or teams will need to review portions of site content monthly for duplication, version control, re-use rules and archiving. Annual review of all site content sections for general timeliness and relevance, archiving and removal and adjusting the retention policy and schedule is also a good practice.


Taxonomy is the classification of information into groups or classes that share similar characteristics. It is a way to organize information to best solve a business problem based on user needs by exposing relationships between subjects. A well-designed taxonomy brings business processes into alignment, allowing users to intuitively navigate to the “right” content.

The best reason for creating and implementing a single, standard taxonomy across the enterprise is that it provides good business value. But more than that, it enhances and improves enterprise search and enables quick information discovery. Taxonomy provides the consistent and controlled vocabulary that can power the single source of truth as expressed in a DAM or CMS. It is a key enabler for organizing any large body of content. It is required for meaningful information management and critical to effective “findability.”

Information Governance Process

There are seven steps to effective Information Governance:

1. Governance Process -- Create Governance Council, Process and Guidelines

  1. Create and Align Processes, Requirements and Controls
  2. Creation of a Governance Council -- DAM Governance Council to develop and maintain the metadata, taxonomy for the DAM and associated systems. Core council is comprised of core stakeholders across different departments within Communications and represent issues brought to them by others in their area.
  3. Governance Communication Plan -- Governance Council decisions are recorded for future reference to understand the context of decisions and to note the timeframe of terminology changes (e.g., After Q3 of 2013, “layout” was changed to “template” and “template” will be used going forward).

2. Establishing Decision Rights and Accountability

  1. Approval Processes -- All decisions are made by the Governance Council with zero tolerance of “ad hoc” or “quick fixes.”
  2. Data Stewards -- It is recommended to have individual “Data Stewards” serving as data owners for his /her individual departments / plants. A Data Steward is someone that is responsible for maintaining a data element (controlled vocabulary, etc.) in a metadata schema.
  3. Requirements Gathering -- Data Stewards will help define data and specify data quality requirements for existing DAM functionality and for future functionality. Some examples of data quality issues include controlled vocabulary creation for: Full Sun, full sun, fullsun, f sun, etc.

3. Performing Stewardship

  1. Messaging -- Regular communications and updates are recommended for monthly and quarterly updates both “in-person” where possible and virtual (email, presentations, videos in DAM, etc.)
  2. Change Management -- Data stewardship is evidenced by changes to the user interface: functionality and graphical (e.g. thumbnails), keyword changes, search term modifications, and new metadata models / user types added
  3. Collecting Performance Metrics -- It is recommended to have regular reporting on DAM user statistics

4. Managing Change and Issue Resolution

  1. Authority -- Only the DAM administrator(s) will be able to make changes to the metadata models configuring the system.
  2. Change Requests -- Any requests to “change” any of the functionality and/or business logic behind the DAM must be formally requested via a Change Request Form made available to users from the DAM.
  3. Change Review -- The change(s) will be reviewed on an as needed basis depending upon the volume of requests.

5. Building Governance Into Technology

  1. Involving IT -- Nominate a member of IT to the Governance Council
  2. Mapping Corporate Systems -- Information Management is a corporate issue, not just an IT issue
  3. Managing vendors -- Chair of Governance Council to maintain metadata / taxonomy vendor management ownership.

6. Stakeholder Care and Support and Stakeholder Communications

  1. Keeping in Touch -- In addition to bi-weekly meetings, there should be monthly and quarterly reports
  2. Gathering Feedback -- It is recommended to have quarterly reviews with user groups for 1:1 feedback
  3. Measuring and reporting -- Define value will to maintain active users and bring new business opportunities for the DAM.

7. Metadata and Taxonomy Governance

  1. Keeping the metadata relevant -- The taxonomy and metadata specifications as terms and vocabularies must change over time.
  2. Using metadata to control the information across the enterprise and assure accuracy and authenticity by 
    1. Documenting / mapping the existing databases and their associated workflows in order to effectively manage technical, functional and business changes -- one specification change in one database may well affect the entire workflow.
    2. Ensuring the Governance council owns, maintains and updates the master copy of the documentation and specifications.
    3. Evaluating and assessing the User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) of the DAM, Taxonomy Navigation, Taxonomy, etc. on a regular basis (e.g., quarterly).
  3. Monitoring the landscape -- Start simple and add if required, be aware of the competition and how they name / categorize products, be sensitive to political and cultural viewpoints.

Organizations need to practice qualitative corporate governance rather than quantitative governance thereby ensuring it is properly run.” -- and “You cannot legislate good behaviour.” -- Mervyn King, Governor of Bank of England

Key Practices of Information Governance

The benefits of Information Governance practices address the tenets of information strategy and information management as it affects people, process and technology. It focuses upon the value of having reliable metadata, taxonomy, policy development and stewardship with technology.

Metadata Governance

Management of metadata and taxonomy on an enterprise level, enforcing global content stewardship by means of controlled vocabularies on the site level.

Metadata Stewardship

Formalization and accountability over the management of data, metadata and taxonomy by site content management and ownership.

Create Pro-Active and Re-Active Governance

Establishment of Information Governance into existing systems like new internal technologies, websites and SharePoint sites. Also build data governance stewardship into data quality methodology, and build data governance stewardship into issue resolution process.

Performing Stewardship

Data stewardship is evidenced by the response to and ongoing updates to keywords and search terms, as well as additions of new metadata models and user types.

Building Governance into Technology

Need representation from IT on the Governance Committee (Information Management is a corporate issue, not just an IT issue).


DAM is not a project; it is a program. By definition, a project has a finite beginning and end, and a DAM requires considerable attention and governance at all stages and by all stakeholders. In this way, governance 
is the process, that helps you to ensure that when the initial phases of the DAM initiative are accomplished, you’ll have the opportunity to seek further capital and share the next generation of business valuation with executives.

Assessing health in governance is one of the most telling indicators and accurate predictors of enterprise DAM success. Every organization needs a way to ensure that the creation, use and distribution of information sustain the organization’s strategies and objectives. Information Governance is that qualitative and quantitative method to manage the greatness of information.