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Blogs > Marcia Kaufman

Asking the right questions about information governance
Marcia Kaufman By: Marcia Kaufman, Partner, Hurwitz & Associates
Published: 26th January 2010
Copyright Hurwitz & Associates © 2010
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I am looking forward to attending The Smart Governance Forum (23rd meeting of the IBM Data Governance Council) in California on February 1–3, where I will be a panelist for a session on Smart Governance Analytics. As my panel group started to plan for the event, I did some background research on the Council to understand more about them. What kinds of questions were Council members asking about information governance when they began meeting in 2004 and how are things different today? Have they developed best practices that would be useful to other companies working to develop an information governance strategy?

Information governance refers to the methods, policies, and technology that your business deploys to ensure the quality, completeness, and safety of its information. Your approach to information governance must align with the policies, standards, regulations, and laws that you are legally required to follow. When a group of senior executives responsible for information security, risk, and compliance at IBM customer organizations began meeting in 2004, interest in IT governance was high, but there wasn't as much attention focused specifically on information governance.

Books like IT Governance: How Top Performers Manage IT Decision Rights for Superior Results by Peter Weill and Jeanne W Ross helped companies understand the benefit of aligning IT goals with the overall goals and objectives of the business. In addition, there were other publications at this time focused on how to take a balanced scorecard approach to managing business strategy and on best practices for implementing IT governance. These approaches are of critical importance to business success, however there was also a need to develop a framework for understanding, monitoring, and securing the rapidly increasing supply of business data and content.

And that is what a group of IT information-focused business leaders and IBM and business partner technology leaders decided to do. The amount of data they needed to collect, aggregate, process, analyze, share, change, store, and retire was growing larger every day. In addition to data stored in traditional databases and packaged applications like CRM (customer relationship management) systems, they were also concerned about information stored and shared in unstructured formats like documents, spreadsheets, and email.

Having more information about your company's customers, partners, and products creates great opportunity, but more information also means more risk if you don't manage your information with care. Council members asked each other lots of questions such as:

  • How can we be sure that the right people get access to the right information at the right time?
  • How can we make sure that the wrong people do not get access to our private information at any time?
  • How can we overcome the risks to data quality, consistency, and security increased by the siloed approach to business data ownership that is so prevalent in our organizations?
  • How can we create a benchmarking tool for information governance that will help our businesses to increase revenue, lower costs, and reduce risks?
  • How can we improve our ability to meet the security and protection standards of auditors and regulators?

As a result of its discussions, the Council developed a Maturity Model to help you assess your current state of information governance and provide guidance for developing a roadmap for the future. The Model identifies 11 categories of information governance. The categories cover all the different elements of building an information security strategy, such as understanding who in the business/IT is responsible for what information, what policies do you follow to control the flow of your information in your company, what are your methodologies for identifying and mitigating risk, and how do you measure the value of your data and the effectiveness of governance. I read two IBM White Papers on the Model that add insight to the questions you need to ask to begin building a path to better information governance, The IBM Data Governance Council Maturity Model: Building a roadmap for effective data governance and The IBM data governance blueprint: Leveraging best practices and proven technologies.

So, what's changed? FInancial crises, increasing regulation, high-profile incidents of stolen private data, cloud technology, and other factors have added substance and complexity to the questions you need to ask about information governance. There is much to do. One question we will explore at the conference next week is, How do you measure the effectiveness of your information governance strategy and what analytical measures are appropriate? For example, some companies are using analytical tools to look for patterns of email communication across the company and discover a greater level of insight into how information is flowing and what needs more review. Look for more on analytics and governance after the conference.

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