Practical Tips for Creating an IG Program

Once a company is sold on the benefits of establishing an IG program, there are steps they can take even without investing in high-priced consultants or other external resources to get started. Successful IG comes from proper planning and preparation.

This article is part of a three-part series. Part 1, “Understanding the need for IG,” and Part 2, "Establishing a Plan to Mitigate Risk with Information Governance".

IG can be an intimidating topic to even talk about for corporations that have never addressed the issue before. Taking it a step further by committing to the initiative and getting started is even harder for some. 

Once a company is sold on the benefits of establishing an IG program, there are steps they can take even without investing in high-priced consultants or other external resources to get started. Successful IG comes from proper planning and preparation. This third and final article in the series offers practical tips for getting started in developing an IG program.

One of the most important things to understand about IG is that by its very nature, it’s a proactive exercise. As such, successful IG comes from properly preparing. Organizations that take the time to do their research, establish a vision and plan their process will find they have a much easier go of it than those who dive in thinking they can implement policies without significant planning. Let us recall Benjamin Franklin’s well-known quote: “Failing to plan is a plan to fail.”

Getting Started

Successful IG is all about planning and preparation. The first and often most important step in IG is to establish a vision for your organization. Where are you today with respect to governing your information, where do you need to go and what is the most sensible path to get there?

It’s imperative to understand and keep in mind that this process, and the vision that directs it, will be unique for every company. While there may be similarities based on the type of information each company is dealing with in the same industry or market served, organizations have unique attributes that will play an integral part in formulating their proper vision.

What is important with respect to vision is to have internal agreement. Key stakeholders, including executives who will champion the initiative and IG team members, should understand, support and be involved in the overall vision. Without consensus around and participation in what you’re trying to achieve and how to get there, challenges will arise that may steer you off course.

Once your vision is set, the real planning begins. Building blocks for a successful IG program include:

  • Setting up a charter, definition, scope and deliverables.

  • Budgeting to be good stewards of your organization’s resources.

  • Planning for a repository for the collaborative community; creating a virtual, secure place where the IG team can meet and share information.

  • Securing program sponsors and executive (senior management) support.

  • Developing a project plan.

  • Aligning development with the Information Governance Reference Model.

  • Defining and identifying project resources.

  • Establishing a project team or task force.

  • Defining roles and responsibilities – ensuring that each team member knows and agrees to what is expected of them, as this is among the biggest indicators of success in creating the program.

  • Assigning, validating, reviewing and finalizing the project plan.

  • Scheduling strategic planning meetings.

  • Establishing a formal communication plan.

  • Developing sustainable training programs.

  • Identifying and defining risks.

  • Overseeing change management.

  • Setting in motion project management and build-out.

Building out your IG program starts with conducting a records information inventory. This is where you roll up your sleeves and dig in to the nitty-gritty of what you’re dealing with. You must identify and distinguish among various types of data, such as:

  • Records information: recorded information created or received by your organization in pursuance of legal obligations or in the transaction of business, having value requiring its retention

  • Non-records information: reference materials, personal papers, junk mail, publications, convenience file, duplicate copies

  • Vital records/information: records which would be needed immediately after an emergency to continue your organization’s operation

  • Archival records/information: historical records of enduring value that are preserved and stored in your organization’s archives

Once you know what kind of information and how much of it you have, the next step is to establish IG procedures, policies and standards. Like your vision, these must be customized for your organization – your unique environment, data types, etc. – not based solely on what other companies do. This is where consulting with experts in the field of IG might be helpful, as they may guide you on current regulations to which your organization may be subject and other pertinent factors.

Retention Policies

The importance of the next step in creating your IG program – developing and deploying a retention program – cannot be overstated. Here is where proper execution will yield ROI, when you can demonstrate both the existence of and the consistent adherence to a formal retention policy. In a litigation or investigation, you will not be required to produce anything that has legitimately been destroyed as part of the company’s retention policy, which can save the company immeasurably.

Training

IG is an ongoing process, which is why there is another critical step beyond simply creating policies. Just as getting buy-in from stakeholders will help to establish a new IG program, organizations must prioritize employee training to introduce and then continually reinforce why the program is important and how to follow all established policies.

But training is not a one-and-done exercise. Employees come and go or move into different roles that alter their involvement in various ways, such as the type of information they might create or receive, collaborate on or save. The organization’s policies may change too when new forms or standards are developed or new regulations are introduced, for example. For these reasons, IG policies and protocols must be revisited and training refreshers required periodically for all employees.

When your IG program is fully established, what is the deliverable? First and foremost, it will mitigate risk within the organization, which is the primary reason for embarking on IG for most companies. Added benefits are cost reduction and increased efficiencies. Once a solid IG program is in place and consistently followed, most organizations will find a much smoother process for the IM function. They will know:

  • Who created what.

  • How it was created and what solution was used.

  • What it was named, along with an appropriate set of metadata.

  • Where it will be kept, for how long and how it will be destroyed and why.

  • Who else has access to it and modification rights.

  • What was done with what piece of information.

  • When that was done; and if needed, why it was done.

Additionally, authorities can be, and in some instances, should be, established for these types of actions. Compliance/noncompliance can be easily tracked, validated and addressed. A myriad of other assurances will also be in place with governance.

This information is invaluable for effectively running any organization in today’s world. With some planning and preparation from a committed team, your organization can achieve its vision for a successful IG program. 

Contributing Author

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Bill Millican

Bill Millican is an expert in the field of records and information management and governance. He has nearly 40 years of experience in various hands-on...

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