Information Governance in an Era of Uncertainty

The word “organize” is the root of the word “organization.” Organizations are compelled to organize their information. With that said, organizations can operate in an organized and holistic manner with the application of information governance. In this article, we elaborate on the benefit, effective operations, and value of information governance in your organization.

Even though information governance can propel organizations deeper into their customers’ lives, many are opting to watch others (such as the financial services arena) embark on this fresh analytical journey. However, a few within the financial industry are realizing it takes a numbers-oriented perspective and connectivity mindset to see their customers in an entirely different light.

This is where information governance takes a stand on behalf of clients. As leadership of the organizations, each customer leaves behind a unique footprint of information. By replicating that activity over several months and years, an integrated network of data trails comes to view. Data economics becomes an innovative operation to expand the organization’s product lines or services.

Drawing from many industry’s philosophy and collaborative natures, organizations can build on this knowledge differently than in year’s past. And while resources are imperative to succeeding, any organization can start implementing information governance on its own by using the following fundamental concepts as a launchpad to access its information assets.

It’s a Benefit

Organizations would do well to explore the juncture of where “compliance burden” collides with informational benefits. Risk, compliance, and information-technology teams say they are progressively working harder to follow regulations, rules, policies, and procedures on their customers’ data-and-records management. The operational resources are exhausting and taxing, to the point where some teams are finally looking past these demands.

With so much time invested in accurately and delicately handling customer information, the unseen advantage is oftentimes a high-level network of knowledge and intelligence that can be constructed on customers. Many organizations are unaware how information governance — a legitimate tool used to advance health care, insurance, education, and other industries — has tremendous proportional uses in all organizations.

Opportunities to better help consumers and tailor products/solutions appropriately arise when organizations start applying information governance to their compliance-risk umbrella. Data and records management is only half of the picture. As an organization uncovers how to turn information-management burdens into advantages, they realize the long-term powerful benefits afforded to their operations and extended to their clients.

Monetizing Information Assets

“The bigger issue is that they may not know you have information useful to them — and even if they did, they wouldn’t know how to use it. Organizations should identify external opportunities for monetizing information assets.”— Infonomics: How to Monetize, Manage, and Measure Information as an Asset for Competitive Advantage (Doug Laney, 2018)

  • With the implementation of an information governance program, organizations have the potential to uncover hidden information value — information and data currency that are disguised in systems, become ready for unraveling.
  • When it comes to enabling effective governance aligned to its compliance requirements, organizations should have engaging awareness and communication of their information risk culture. This will allow responsible parties to properly execute the message depth and risk application.
  • Each information and data asset is currency, where organizations can discover a new segment of information economy. The information governance toolset is a 360-degree operational assessment in data and information opportunities, not just on weaknesses or preventative measurements.

Effective Operations

The trove of information that organizations collect is a liability if not properly utilized. Studies show that with today’s heightened cybersecurity risks, doing nothing with your customers’ data is much more expensive than experimenting and utilizing it along the way. The same deviant cyberthreats that have seeped into all types of business sectors serving digital constituencies are progressively working to breach.

Few organizations have realized that safely amassing and storing documents, files, and other records is much more worth the effort when combined with the right technology and process that combs through information hot spots to start mapping data life-cycles and economic opportunities. A routine and systematic information governance initiative is needed to extract, sift through, and link customer data-points together.

Only then can organizations make a reasonable argument toward resources expended for information assets. When an organization harvests fundamental, informational relationships on customers as it applies safe-and-sound data management, its operations can confidently pivot forward — all while reasonably justifying the expense and process.

Targets for Penetration and Lateral Movement

“More than 60 percent of companies retain more than 1,000 stale user accounts, which are targets for penetration and lateral movement — a technique used to identify, gain access to, and exfiltrate sensitive data.” — Data Under Attack: 2018 Global Data Risk Report from the Varonis Data Lab (Varonis, 2018)

  • Organizations have the advantage to evaluate customer data or partner with third-party solution providers to reclassify stale data and develop quality data analytics. Based on the data analytics, the data sets are transformed into information asset categories. The asset categories can apply to a tangible or intangible service or product. Data architecture forms the information asset and creates value. Monetizing information may be cumbersome, but the customer retention and value is key to a sustainable organization.
  • The era of information and data economy has emerged and disrupted operations with analytical tools, machine learning technologies, and cloud-based solutions. These tools rearranged the way organizations managed data and information sets, from providing security classification for operational resiliency to automating retention and security disposition. Organizations tend to evaluate new tools to maximize efficiencies, but they lack the alignment of technology and governance during the assessment and implementation stages. In a recent report on cybersecurity and resiliency, researchers observed that a key element of effective programs is the incorporation of a governance and risk management program that generally includes, among other things: 1) a risk assessment to identify, analyze, and prioritize cybersecurity risks to the organization; 2) written cybersecurity policies and procedures to address those risks; and 3) the effective implementation and enforcement of those policies and procedures. — Cybersecurity and Resiliency Observations (U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations, 2019)
  • Greater emphasis should be performed on information governance and security due to data monetization opportunities, specifically with privacy laws, to avoid compliance issues with customized product offers. — Enterprise Information Management in Practice: Managing Data and Leveraging Profits in Today’s Complex Business Environment (Saumya Chaki, 2015)

Information Has Value

The informational bridges of an organizations’ backend are important to deploying new products, services and solutions. But organizations are finding they can only build those bridges if they have the capacity to pinpoint and classify key characteristics.

Organizations already know that a customer’s relationship is highly dependent on trust and convenience. This theme has been drilled into the financial arena’s innovative purpose and campaigning for years on end. Other industries can exercise the same campaign and ignite their customer’s information value with beneficial services.

Going forward, an organization’s ability to provide information value from data will lie in its back-office ability to see financial associations forming in customer’s lives well ahead of time. Doing this means cracking open financial trends from records-and-data assets. It starts with adapting five core operational areas to paint an ongoing visual of customers’ current and future needs: 1) records and information management; 2) business operations and value; 3) privacy and security; 4) information technology; and 5) legal holds.

Ensuring Confidentiality, Quality, and Integrity

“Creating an information governance framework to ensure confidentiality, quality, and integrity of data is essential to meet both internal and external requirements, such as regulatory compliance, financial reporting, data security, and privacy policies.” — Enterprise Information Management in Practice: Managing Data and Leveraging Profits in Today’s Complex Business Environment (Saumya Chaki, 2015)

  • As organizations interact with members online or face-to-face, they create a connection of providing credible and quality information. Organizations are driven to help economic growth in communities, and at the same time, ensure the best service and standards are applied.
  • When there are no “incidents” or “findings” from audits or examinations, management withdraws from further operational enhancement. They find their value is “satisfactory” and don’t need to change anything. However, an exam is a way to find out if operations are safe and sound at the time of the exam based on the examiner’s assessment.
  • Typically, exams are evaluated based on one-year or two-year range back-period. As an example, if an organization has continuously operated with the same process for the past 5 – 10 years but customer volume has increased by five-fold, should you examine operations based on a smaller-scale process from five years ago? Or should you examine operations on a larger scale from growth over the past 5 – 10 year period? When production scales with time, resources and environments change.
  • Organizations should evaluate tools, training, policies and most importantly information governance applied to all areas in operations. Understanding and adapting to the five core operational areas of information governance allows your organization to evaluate the value of your information assets and build capital in a safe and sound environment.

Let’s get your organization organized with information governance now. Operational environments and technology are changing faster than before. With ongoing operational evaluations and continuous information governance, organizations can best align themselves in changes, business continuity, and most importantly, transparency and retention of their customers.

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Maria Martinez-Carey

Maria Martinez-Carey

Maria Martinez-Carey is an Information Governance ambassador and a ninja thinker in designing practical information governance solutions with a compliance mindset and lean operations. Maria’s extensive risk management and international operations experience provided a global perspective that deployed cost-effective and successful programs. She is a change agent that leads organizational transformations to modernize operations in the digital era, implement best-in-breed solutions, execute interactive training and awareness programs, and most importantly, coach team members to adopt operational values and self-awareness in an ever-changing risk culture environment.

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