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How can we make information governance interesting?

Erin Haselkorn

Information governance is not the darling of IT topics. It isn’t something that you can roll into a fancy dashboard and show to management. Chances are, it won’t provide you with tons of budget to buy cutting edge technology. It’s also really difficult to do and requires a lot of work.

While everyone wants to talk about data insight and analytics, very few people want to talk about the governance or regulation around data that is necessary to have a successful analytics program. Without a foundational information governance program, however, organizations will fail at analytics. While businesses are investing millions in people, processes, and technology around analytics, many of them simply cannot harness their information.

Data is federated across businesses; it’s coming in faster than ever before and at high volumes. More individuals have access to manipulate and add information. All of that creates a pretty challenging environment to harness information. Gone are the good old days where information was in a central place, only a few people could manipulate it, and only IT was generating analytics reports. Now everyone wants in on the data game.

But this new environment means that businesses are struggling to get even the basics right. Data isn’t consolidated, trusted, accurate, or complete. 

The good news is most businesses realize this challenge. They see value in having accurate, managed information. The challenge now is creating an information governance strategy that can be successful and that generates business buy-in.

Later this month, Experian Data Quality is going to release a new research study on building a business case for data quality. When working on that report, I was struck by how many businesses struggled to build a business case, tie data accuracy to key business objectives, and how long it took to get a business case approved. In fact, 80 percent said there are too many stakeholders involved in building a business case for data quality.

This is primarily because those managing data and those controlling budgets are not speaking the same language. This doesn’t just apply to a strict data quality perspective, it applies to data governance or any data management related area. Data management is not something that is made relevant to everyone. We don’t talk about data in terms of revenue or customer experience, we talk about it in relation to accuracy and completeness. Most stakeholders lack exposure to the underlying problem and may assume that changes will have an impact, rather than actually testing them and making results quantifiable. 

To make information governance interesting, we need to relate it to business objectives and put hard facts in place around the problem.

Gartner recently released a new report entitled Ten Steps to Information Governance. In it, Debra Logan outlines ten steps to a successful program. The first four are some of the most important and relate to the information above. It is about communication, relating the initiative to a corporate strategy, building a business case and measuring the program. Many programs skip these initiative steps and jump straight to technology and metrics that don’t mean anything to anyone outside of IT.

Information governance may not always be a fun topic to discuss, but if we don’t get better at talking about it, businesses are going to invest a lot of money in analytics technology that doesn’t give them any more insight.