measuring with a clear ruler
PHOTO: Wander Fleur

Most organizations understand the value of having effective information governance (IG) policies in place. Consequently, they institute policies to manage the data they store across its lifecycle, from creation through use to disposal. But these programs often run counter to a deep-seated fear of losing useful business information, so they end up ignored or circumvented. Defining and measuring compliance with information governance programs is an effective way to ensure they are followed.

However, measuring the effectiveness of an information governance program can be, in many ways, as complex as getting the program launched. Despite the clear-cut benefits and increasing prevalence of information governance programs, identifying broadly accepted metrics has proven difficult. Organizations can develop metrics that work for them if they consider two key criteria when developing these metrics: the technology and data types they use and the goals of the information governance program itself.

Measuring Information Governance: Technology and Document Considerations

While most organizations rely on electronic means to store and manage their data, there are still a wide variety of data formats, complicating governance efforts. Valuable metrics should be readily available to those who manage and implement information governance programs, so it’s critical to leverage the power of the systems you have in place. If your technology is already tracking certain data points, use them as first-level measurements of success. Look at things like:

  • Are overall stored data volumes increasing or decreasing?
  • How often are archived documents retrieved?

If you’re using an enterprise content management (ECM) solution, you’ll have more granular data on how electronic information is accessed, controlled and managed.  Consider measuring the following data points:

  • Documents/records created or disposed of (monthly, annually).
  • How much storage is utilized, by department or facility.
  • Number of visitors (unique or repeat) to your site each month.

Although most information created today is digital, organizations continue to manage paper records. Understanding what happens with paper documents is still an important part of information governance. Many companies use third-party providers to store and manage their paper records off-site. Metrics based reporting, for paper, may encompass slightly different criteria such as:  storage (boxes, cu ft, etc.) by location and department, storage and retrieval patterns, number of new boxes added (or disposed of) monthly, etc.  Tracking both the electronic and paper metrics can paint a picture of how your program is working.

Importantly, remember to store (or eventually move) data into repositories where it is more easily measured and managed—from paper, to digital, and ultimately to an ECM solution.

Related Article: Why Customer Experience Needs Information Governance

Aligning Metrics with the Goals of Information Governance

Depending on your organization’s size, industry, and regulatory environment, your goals may fall into one or more of the following categories of benefits.

  • Improving regulatory compliance.
  • Securing confidential, sensitive, or personal information.
  • Reducing IT storage and administrative costs.
  • Mitigating litigation risk.
  • Increasing productivity.

Ideally, an executive steering committee will define the information governance program’s goals. But how do the professionals responsible for implementing and managing the program measure effectiveness? If the metrics gathered and analyzed don’t reflect the goals, the measurements don’t move the organization closer to success.

Secondary metrics that align with these goals can provide a deeper level of insight.

  • If your goal is regulatory compliance, has information governance helped reduce supervisory overhead?
  • If you’re looking to increase productivity, what is the ratio between documents used/retrieved vs. unused?
  • If you want to mitigate legal risk, are you seeing lower data volumes, fewer irrelevant documents collected and reviewed, and faster time to key information in e-discovery operations?

Related Article: Information Governance Revisited

4 Quick Takeaways

If you’re looking for some quick takeaways that can help you better understand whether or not your information governance program is having the impact you want, here are four tips to keep top of mind.

Measure to manage 

Peter Drucker’s famous maxim, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure” holds true in information governance. Organizations that want to tackle information governance successfully must define appropriate metrics for their programs.

Accessible, actionable, auditable

The three A’s of good metrics apply in information governance. Make sure you can easily retrieve or calculate the numbers; make sure that you’re that the numbers point the way toward logical next steps; and make sure that you can verify the accuracy of the numbers.

Align metrics with your goals

This is where the “actionable” element of your metrics really pays off. If the numbers you track line up with the goals you’re trying to achieve, steps you take to improve those numbers will move you closer to achieving your goals.

Publish your results 

Few things are as strongly motivating as public attention. If a team is meeting their goals and receives positive recognition, they’ll work hard to keep the praise coming. And if the reverse is true, few things are a better motivator than a public calling-out. Nobody wants to see their name on the “naughty list.”