AIIM Open Forum

 View Only

Information Governance Success: 10 IG Principles

By Robert Smallwood posted 02-17-2015 16:48


A Blueprint for IG Success

Information Governance (IG) is a nascent and developing field that is still forming and being defined. So there are varied definitions of IG and some verbose ones but a practical definition our firm uses is that IG is:

"Policy-based control of information to maximize value and meet legal, regulatory, risk, and business demands.”

Or, in short, “security, control, and optimization of information.”

In accounting, there are clearly established Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), and chartered accountants and CPAs in the U.S. and Canada have established the Generally Accepted Privacy Principles (GAPP). For records management, the Association for Records Managers and Administrators (ARMA) International has established the Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles. But there are no universally agreed upon principles established for IG.

In the course of conducting consulting engagements and research for the three books I have written on IG, these 10 IG principles bubbled to the top.

They are the result of synthesizing, analyzing, and distilling a great deal of information on IG program successes, failures, and Best Practices. There are 10 IG principles which are a good starting point toward someday establishing “Generally Accepted IG Principles.” I welcome comments and discussion which can help revise, sharpen, consolidate, expand, and improve these IG principles which can help move the field of IG forward. Here are 10 IG principles that must be addressed and adhered to for IG programs to succeed:

1) Executive sponsorship. No IG effort will survive and be successful if it does not have an accountable, responsible executive sponsor. The sponsor must drive the effort, clear obstacles for the IG team or steering committee, communicate the goals and business objectives that the IG program addresses, and keep upper management informed on progress.

2) Stakeholder consultation. Those who work most closely to information are the ones who best know why it is needed and how to manage it, so business units must be consulted in IG policy development. The IT department understands its capabilities and technology plans and can best speak to those points. Legal issues must always be deferred to the in-house council or legal team. The records management department knows records. Business unit managers and analysts know their respective operations. A cross-functional collaboration is needed for IG policies to hit the mark and be effective. The result is not only more secure information but also better information to base decisions on and closer adherence to regulatory and legal demands.

3) Information policy development and communication. Clear policies must be established for the access and use of information, and those policies must be communicated regularly and crisply to employees. For instance, policies for the use of email, instant messaging, social media, cloud computing, mobile computing, and posting to blogs and internal sites must be developed in consultation with stakeholders and communicated clearly. This includes conveying clearly to employees what the consequences of violating IG policies are.

4) Information integrity. This area considers the consistency of methods used to create, retain, preserve, distribute, and track information. Adhering to good IG practices include data governance techniques and technologies to ensure quality data. Information integrity means there is the assurance that information is accurate, correct, and authentic. IG efforts to improve data quality and information integrity include de-duplicating (removing redundant data) and maintaining only unique data to reduce risk, storage costs, and information technology (IT) labor costs while providing accurate, trusted information for decision makers. Supporting technologies must enforce policies to meet legal standards of admissibility and preserve the integrity of information to guard against claims that it has been altered, tampered with, or deleted (called “spoliation”). Audit trails must be kept and monitored to ensure compliance with IG policies to assure information integrity.

5) Information organization and classification. This means standardizing formats, categorizing all information, and semantically linking it to related information. It also means creating a retention and disposition schedule that spells out how long the Information (e.g. e-mail, e-documents, spreadsheets, reports) and records should be retained and how they are to be disposed of or archived. Information, and particularly documents, should be classified according to a global or corporate taxonomy that considers the business function and owner of the information, and semantically links related information. Information must be standardized in form and format. Tools such as document labeling can assist in identifying and classifying e-documents. Metadata associated with documents and records must be standardized and kept up-to-date. Good IG means good metadata management and utilizing metadata standards that are appropriate to the organization.

6) Information security and privacy. This means securing information in its three states: at rest, in motion, and in use. It deals with means implementing measures to protect information from damage, theft, or alteration by malicious outsiders and insiders as well as non-malicious (accidental) actions that may compromise information. For instance, an employee may lose a laptop with confidential information, but if proper IG policies are enforced using security-related information technologies, the information can be secured. This can be done by access control methods, data or document encryption, deploying information rights management software, using remote digital shredding capabilities, and implementing enhanced auditing procedures. Information privacy is closely related to information security and is critical when dealing with personally identifiable information (PII), protected health information (PHI), and other confidential or sensitive information.

7) Information accessibility. Accessibility is vital not only in the short term but also over time using long-term digital preservation (LTDP) techniques when appropriate (generally if information is needed for over five years). Accessibility must be balanced with information security concerns. Information accessibility includes making the information as simple as possible to locate and access, which involves not only the user interface but also enterprise search principles, technologies, and tools. It also includes basic access controls, such as password management, identity and access management, and delivering information to a variety of hardware devices.

8) Information control. Document management data management, and report management software must be deployed to control the access to, creation, updating, and printing of data, documents and reports. When information is declared a business record, it must be assigned to the proper retention and disposition schedule to be retained for as long as the records are needed to comply with legal retention periods and regulatory requirements. Also, nonrecord information must be classified and scheduled. And information that may be needed or requested in legal proceedings must be preserved and safeguarded through a legal hold process.

9) Information governance monitoring and auditing. To ensure that guidelines and policies are being followed and to measure employee compliance levels, information access and use must be monitored. To guard against claims of spoliation, use of e-mail, social media, cloud computing, and report generation should be logged in real time and maintained as an audit record. Technology tools such as document analytics can track how many documents or reports users access and print and how long they spend doing so.

10) Continuous improvement. IG programs are not one-time projects but rather ongoing programs that must be reviewed periodically and adjusted to account for gaps or shortcomings as well as changes in the business environment, technology usage, or business strategy.

If you are currently planning or implementing an IG program, these 10 principles would be a good way to communicate with your stakeholders and IG steering committee what IG is, how it should be done, and how to fashion IG programs that succeed. You should continually reinforce the importance of these principles during the course of your IG program, and measure how well your organization is doing in these 10 critical areas.

Robert Smallwood is Managing Director of the Institute for IG at IMERGE Consulting, which can be found at He teaches comprehensive courses on IG and E-records management for corporate and public sector clients. He is the author of 3 leading books on Information Governance: Information Governance: Concepts, Strategies. and Best Practices (Wiley, 2014); Managing Electronic Records: Methods, Best Practices, and Technologies (Wiley, 2013); and Safeguarding Critical E-Documents (Wiley, 2012).

Follow Robert on Twitter @RobertSmallwood and if we are not connected - please feel free to reach out!