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4 easy ways to get started with information governance

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Expert Information Systems Architect for Information Governance, J.B. Hunt Transport, Inc.

Two paradoxes of information technology are: data has no value if you can’t access it, and it’s a liability if the wrong people access it. Company leaders don’t think they need data governance until these paradoxes hit them hard.

According to IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, data is the world’s new natural resource. The International Data Corporation (IDC) forecasts that by 2025 the global datasphere will grow to 163 zettabytes (or 163 trillion gigabytes). That’s 10 times the 16.1 zettabytes of data generated in 2016.The world is generating more data than ever before.

The information management field is laser focused on making sure all that information is where it’s supposed to be, protected from outsiders and appropriately accessible. By the way, you don’t need to keep information around forever. Often, data that’s more than two years old has little value.

The benefits of robust information governance are significant:

  • Well-managed data empowers you to keep pace with ever-evolving regulatory compliance standards.
  • Data that is free flowing yet within strict governance boundaries is essential to a thriving data analytics program.
  • Data needed for legal issues and e-discovery is easily accessible.
  • With a well-defined permissions structure, employees can easily access data that supports operational and strategic objectives.
  • Enforced retention rules mean data isn’t held for longer than necessary. This creates less static and distraction from higher value data.
  • Valuable data is better protected against privacy leaks and breaches.
  • Having metadata, classifications, and governance policies in place better prepares you for the pending European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Even if your business isn’t global, similar regulations could eventually be implemented within the United States.

What’s the ideal state of information governance? In a perfect world, you’d have a catalog of every information asset with full metadata. You’d have processes for data holds and privacy concerns. You’d have accessible hold locations.

Sound complicated? Don’t worry.

The good news is that information governance starts with baby steps. The entire process is iterative. Take that lofty, perfect-world vision and customize it. How can you align information governance policy to your company’s policies and strategies? What’s your ideal state? Look at what you can do right now, then build out over time.

Here are four easy ways to start where you are:

  1. Educate. Look no further than your newsfeed to find examples of data breaches and governance issues. Your potential data problem might not make headlines, but it’s still a threat. Create this awareness within your company.
  2. Target structured data. It’s easier to manage because the data is in one system. Individuals don’t get to make copies or hoard. You’ll need to eventually address the proliferation of unstructured data, but targeting structured data is a solid start.
  3. Define and enforce a retention policy. For example, generally accepted accounting principles say you should retain tax-related data for seven years. Even one broad brush stroke for all your information is a start. It’s not ideal, but you can iterate from there.
  4. Implement privacy controls. You’ll retain everything for a certain period of time and that data will be secured with a specific protocol.

I’ll be honest with you. I’ve been accused of passionate persistence about information governance, and I’m proud to wear that mantle. At J.B. Hunt, we’re more than 10 years into our information lifecycle management journey. It’s successful because we’ve addressed those two IT paradoxes head on and made data governance a priority. For example, we’ve designed new data retention and management processes built on IBM Information Lifecycle Governance solutions. The results?

  • 94.2 percent reduction in the amount of data unnecessarily stored, reducing costs and risk.
  • Better compliance with data-retention regulations.
  • Easier and less costly eDiscovery.

Learn more about our information governance journey with IBM by watching this short video and reading this case study. Remember, your own journey starts where you are, one step at a time.

Also join me at LegalTech 2018 in New York, where I will be speaking on the topic, “The value of Information Governance in prepping for eDiscovery” on 1 February from 11 am to 12 noon.