The role of information governance is changing rapidly alongside technological developments. As the volume and speed of information and data transactions increase, risks emerging from data breaches, and the importance that businesses place on the governance of information, also increase.
Emerging cultural trends
Information Governance is an enterprise-wide, strategic approach to effectively managing ever increasing volumes of information to better support business outcomes and mitigate risk.
Its evolving role is reflected in the increasing interest and role that boards and executive teams take in the governance of information and data. According to corporate governance experts, boards increasingly see information governance as a critical component of their function and responsibility:
“Even before the global pandemic placed heightened demands on boards, a two-decade trend toward information governance was well underway. It has been catalysed by new technology, legal requirements, industry best practices, committee charters, fiduciary duties, and investor demands, compelling greater board participation in risk management and ESG oversight. These changes foster boards’ capacities to collaborate in informed strategy formation” (Stevelman & Haan, Washington and Lee University School of Law).
The increased importance of information governance to corporations and governments has downstream implications for CIOs, company or departmental secretaries, and ICT managers and strategists. Information governance is now a core aspect of organisational strategy and oversight.
74% of firms report an increase in the focus on managing regulatory risk
Thomson Reuters, 2019
In addition to significant cultural shifts, the following major technological developments have also impacted our understanding of information governance.
The cloud is placing some aspects of information and data governance in the hands of third-party service providers, such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, and Google Cloud. Subscribers use sophisticated security infrastructure with cost-effective economies of scale to reduce upfront capital costs.
However, many aspects of security and information governance management remain with the owner. This raises new questions, particularly around data sovereignty in unpredictable geopolitical conditions.
Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT)
These technologies are replacing the trust usually placed in intermediaries, such as government or financial institutions, with a system based on relationships established across peer-to-peer networks. The ability to assure the integrity of highly distributed records can create a ‘marketplace’ for digital assets and improve the efficiency of transactions and processes between enterprises. The traceability of blockchain records has diverse applications, including managing financial transactions, supply chains, and personal records, such as health or educational records. However, these features do not eliminate the need for an effective records governance approach.
Big data & Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Big data is used for various purposes, ranging from managing energy grids to enabling AI-based services and formulating national health policy.
The correlation between information governance and the realisation of benefits from big data initiatives is not widely understood.
The use of massive collections of real-time and longitudinal data offers two key forms of business benefit:
- Strategic benefits – the ability to gain strategic insight into threats and opportunities and to improve overall competitiveness and agility
- Operational benefits – improving the efficiency of business services, functions, and processes.
Figure 1: Big data’s influence on information governance
“There is a strong correlation between information governance maturity and competitive advantage gained through big data utilisation.”
Information Governance in the Big Data Era: Aligning Organizational Capabilities (2018)
The terms ‘collaboration’ and ‘governance’ may seem mutually incompatible. Particularly when organic approaches to adopting common collaboration tools (such as MS Teams, Asana, Slack, Trello, Google Docs, etc.) can seem to undermine the benefits they offer.
However, collaboration platforms quickly lose their agility, flexibility, and usability when users become overwhelmed by a proliferation of collaborative spaces, and when the information that they use is not well managed.
Simple issues such as version control, and the management of the products of collaboration (documents, models, images) can be resolved through an effective information governance approach to collaboration.
Process automation, simulation, and virtualisation
Increasingly, production processes and asset lifecycles are managed through digital models, automated processes, actionable intelligence, simulations, virtual models, and digital twins. These offer tangible and measurable business benefits.
For process automation, information management and governance practices offer a range of distinct advantages, including:
- The ability to provide reliable and compliant evidence to third parties, including customers and government
- Enabling continuous process improvement and innovation through data-driven insights
- Creating more open and interactive supply and value chains while protecting system integrity and security
- Providing repeatable and reliable processes and operations
- Capturing knowledge from people who oversee and manage production
- Diagnosing, detecting, and remedying cybersecurity problems through data collection and analysis
- Improving future regulation and policy.
“Information governance practices are critical in deploying smart manufacturing and reducing investment risk.”
Manufacturing Policy Institute (2019)
The digital workplace calls for a unified, enterprise-wide approach to information management and governance to enhance the usefulness and business value of information assets.
The success or failure of digital transformation fundamentally rests upon radically redefined experiences with customers, employees, and partners.
Digital business transformation must be supported and enabled through an effective information governance approach to succeed.