Information management continues to be a challenge for mid-size and large enterprises. Although many have backed away from the “retain at all cost” attitude instilled in the minds of CIOs by attorneys and auditors over the past decade, recent discussions with Wikibon practitioners and data points CIOs have provided indicate that the problem is getting harder, rather than easier, to solve, and information systems are becoming more inefficient at managing information and the business insight it enables.
Some of the challenges muddying the waters are:
- Explosive new services, networking, and collaboration technologies, including Sharepoint, Facebook, Google Apps, Twitter, surveillance capabilities, and the instrumentation of many end-point devices, are creating more data to govern and inform business and operational decisions.
- The view of the how, why, and what information is needed to generate positive ROI is incomplete.
- The CIO and records manager are failing to promote basic records management principles with technology requirements across the complete information lifecycle.
- Records and unstructured information that often are not needed are being retained without proper classification or formal ownership. Few systems exist for governing the classification, storage, or disposition of unstructured content. Big rip-and-replace efforts are required.
- Discovery and disposition processes are manually intensive, disruptive, and costly, increasing legal complexity, particularly in highly regulated industries, and no well accepted facility for how to manage information governance.
- Common criteria for business requirements, metrics, and measurements, consistent definition of key terms, etc., are lacking
Failure of the CIO and Records Manager
Why have we not seen real, positive progress recently? The finger-pointing usually begins with the failure of the CIO and records manager to tame the information management explosion, and their collective inability to demonstrate value from a business, risk, and efficiency perspective. The problem is not a lack of awareness, attention, or effort. Application workload virtualization and e-discovery, respectively, are just two items on the agenda that impact an information management strategy but that do not necessarily drive it. What then does drive an information management strategy?
How to Demonstrate Value
Value generation drives the strategy. The four milestones that define where the chief information management office (CIMO) is in providing business value through information management are: React, manage, govern, and inform.
If you’re at the react milestone, you’re behind the curve, spending more money on things like needless copies, over-retention, and e-discovery cost run away. You have little concrete evidence of what poor information management practices are costing you, you have no information governance policy or a plan or technology for implementing it if you had one.
At the manage milestone:
- You’ve begun to look for and inventory your information assets by identifying structured and unstructured repositories across the enterprise.
- You’ve examined your retention policies and completed a gap analysis.
- You’ve done at least a cursory review of principle and policy compliance with regards to retention, security, backup, etc. both inside the enterprise and with vendors and service providers.
- You’ve developed a few standard, probably inefficient practices from recent discovery requests and other related activities , etc.
- You've started to look at costs, and the impact of poor information management practices on people, infrastructure (e.g., storage management, CPU utilization) and IT budgets in general.
- De-duplication is part of your information management vocabulary, and you've started to see implementations for backup and archiving applications.
With these and other activities, you are quantifying what poor information costs the organization and building a framework, functionality requirements, etc. and a more strategic approach to information management overall. You’ve identified where you are in meeting the technology and business process requirements for end-to-end functionality for information management and put together a technology and services roadmap. You also might even have metrics to measure the effectiveness of the information management program and the investments toward more efficiency.
At this milestone, you’ve built and “operationalized” a strategic information management framework across one or several departments or functions within the organization. You’ve redeployed policy for good information governance, established subject-matter expertise (maybe a center of excellence for larger organizations) as a service to organizational business units, and your technology roadmap for information management is being built out.
Business value becomes apparent between the manage and govern stages. Organizations should see reduced discovery costs, fewer information liabilities (e.g., information assets not managed), and lower compliance costs as they move into governance. At the same time, information classification, declaration, and governance policy has become more automated and much less manual. Dedup in primary storage is part of CIMO’s parlance, copy ratios are falling, the percentage of information not used after 90 days also falling. The ROI governance investment is being paid off through charge-backs to the application heads and business managers.
This is the goal – demonstrating business insight through effective and efficient information management. Auto-declaration and data classification is the norm across e-mail, file systems, Sharepoint, social networks, etc., not the exception. Policy compliance is exception-based, not an afterthought. Information management is a dynamic service and function that is flexible, secure, and optimized to meet both accessibility and disposition needs. Applications and other significant business workloads are “aware” of information and information management policies. All information carrying some business value is indexed and can automatically be put in context with other information needed for business decision-making.
The records manager, now the chief information management officer, has a seat in the executive lunch room.
CIOs and records managers need to come to a conclusion on where the organization is on the information management journey. The conclusion may be a bitter pill. Use this metaphor to identify your own business value and timeline. Embed this metaphor across the organization to drive strategy, investments in policy and infrastructure, and priorities. Get the records manager out of the data center and into the business.
Action Item: There are no shortcuts. Every organization needs to follow the react, manage, govern, and inform path in order. The first step is to get your arms around the problem and understand where your organization is today. The sooner started the sooner finished, and with the financial costs of continuing to operate run-away information retention systems, pushing this process forward should be high on the CIO's task list.