Information governance (IG) is becoming more difficult. Data volumes are exploding, regulations are emerging and changing and large workforces are widely dispersed across at-home offices. Just as an organization gets a handle on the data from one new system, five more are onboarded. For many legal, compliance and privacy professionals, IG progress may feel like two steps forward, one step back.
We’re constantly working with our clients to help them keep pace with their growing data universes and get ahead of new challenges. Our team is focused on keeping up on the broader landscape and listening to the successes and challenges taking shape within corporations. In that spirit of listening and learning, FTI Consulting recently partnered with Onna to host a “Rethinking Information Governance” roundtable with global IG leaders at Fortune 500 corporations and startups. The goal was to facilitate a collaborative platform to help IG professionals get a pulse on the initiatives their peers are prioritizing.
The roundtable proved to be a lively discussion with constructive debate, confessions of challenges and mistakes and sharing of big ideas. Key insights that emerged from the discussion include:
Save, save, save?
Our roundtable participants all agreed that “save everything” is still an issue, and a costly one at that. They discussed the fact that most data loses its relevancy in a matter of weeks, but convincing other stakeholders to buy-in to shorter retention periods remains very difficult. Some suggested that IG should take the stance that the value of all communications expires after two or three years. From that standpoint, they can walk back on certain areas as needed, such as pulling out regulated communications, labeling them as records and storing them under unique retention rules that meet compliance obligations. A similar process can be followed for any other communications that users need to keep as a business record beyond baseline retention periods.
One participant said, “There are too many steps and handoffs [in how data is being managed], and it really is broken. [So we decided] let’s keep everything until we know we can do this right. There is so much pressure to turn the conveyer belt on, but there is a gap in the understanding or appreciation of the risk from IT to legal. That’s a bridge we’re trying to build.”
Good Faith and Collaboration are Key
Partnership—with vendors, employees, key business units and the C-suite—goes a long way toward achieving IG wins. The experts were unanimous in their belief that a collaborative approach is required to build momentum toward perfect records management.
Establishing categories for valuable information is one way many of the participants are working to reduce storage volumes and gain control over where data is flowing. They agreed that email is not the place to store information that is valuable to the business, and aim to provide employees with records categories and repositories into which they can transfer any information that holds business value.
“We’ll make a compromise and let [employees] bucket things, and evacuate and save what [they] want, and redirect it to a different repository that has a different retention policy. We’re giving users some education and a place to take action to save important information, but also getting rid of most of the useless stuff automatically,” said one IG leader.
Ultimately, most leaders place some degree of responsibility on the business users when determining which information to elevate as a high value record. They help employees follow the IG taxonomy through training and a culture of good faith.
“We still have the responsibility as a company to make sure that people are not getting rid of stuff that we need to have, and that we have the knowledge management value piece covered. We have to trust our users to mostly do the right thing.”
Find Balance and Boundaries
Landing on the perfect program that is simultaneously robust, actionable amid day-to-day operations and enables business needs is a massive challenge. And, the increasing diversity of tools and collaboration apps now being used for business means information is exchanged through dozens of platforms, not primarily email. IG teams continue to face the difficult task of balancing between enabling and stifling innovation. Participants suggested mapping the many sources of data across the company and how they flow among business users as an important first step in reaching middle ground.
Drawing boundaries is further complicated by nascent rules and regulations, and the need to distill all that complexity down into a reasonable company policy. One participant explained by saying, “When you are a global company, and you are dealing with different legal and regulatory systems, you have different time periods to prosecute things. You might have shorter, or longer, statues of limitations. Reconciling a policy, or various retention periods, that have the flexibility to address privacy concerns in different countries, as well as being able to comply with regulatory and legal needs of different countries, is pretty challenging.”
Today’s landscape is impacting IG in a myriad of ways. Adapting to new challenges will require an ongoing sharing of ideas—like this recent roundtable—across industries, to facilitate collective learning and advancement of best practices.
The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of FTI Consulting, its management, its subsidiaries, its affiliates, or its other professionals.