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The roadmap to successful information governance

Chis GilesEngaging stakeholders with effective tactics – Part 1

Headlines today are frequently dominated by data breaches and news of additional rules and regulations governing the management and use of information. As a result, organisations find themselves at a crucial juncture, facing both significant risks and opportunities. The scope of information governance has transitioned from being a side task to becoming a central focal point.

At this moment, it's imperative that information governance cease to be an overlooked part of the organisation and move toward being a key strategy to guide the future.

For professionals charged with leading new initiatives within this field, developing a clear and convincing business case is of importance. In this initial piece, Chris Giles helps to navigate you through the complexities of building a business case that resonates with leadership and secures the necessary support and resources from key stakeholders. In the subsequent part, Antony Wells, will discuss the methodology and the art of effectively communicating its significance, a key factor in securing backing for your information governance initiatives.


Foundations of advocacy

“Formulating a ‘business case’ involves mapping out a detailed blueprint for launching new initiatives,” Chris Giles notes. “Consider it like designing a building’s foundation,” he elaborates, “with your organisation’s leadership as the critical inspectors, to whom you must present a plan that is both structurally sound and financially promising. The pivotal questions are: Why should this matter to them? What benefits does it bring to the table for both them and the organisation? What will be the investment, and what rewards can be anticipated? You want to create a story that not only has a financial dimension but also aligns with your organisation’s objectives, addressing key concerns of stakeholders such as enhancing operational efficiency, compliance with regulatory standards, and the protection of client data.” Below, Giles outlines the steps for devising a robust and convincing case for an information governance strategy:

Linking to the big picture: Making sure your plan for managing information fits with the overall goals of your organisation

Amongst the day-to-day operations, your strategic plan acts as your guide, making sure every task and project is in line with your organisation's main goals. This goes beyond a list of daily tasks. It makes sure every choice and action in your department helps reach the bigger aims of the whole organisation.

It's important to weave your strategy for managing information into the fundamental mission and vision of your organisation. By doing this, you ensure every step in your plan for managing information moves your organisation closer to its major goals.

The importance of having a plan

There are complexities with managing information and as such, having a strategic plan is absolutely necessary. Without this plan, trying to make a case for a new project can feel like wandering around in the dark without a flashlight. Think of your strategic plan as a compass that helps you decide if a new project is just a temporary fix or a big step towards your organisation's main goals.

For example, think about whether getting the latest technology really moves your organisation closer to its goals for becoming more digital. Or, consider if changing your services could give you an edge over competitors in meeting regulatory requirements. Decisions like these need clear direction, which is exactly what a well-thought-out strategy offers.

Using long term goals to shape your business case

Creating a strategic plan cannot be just a formal exercise. Its purpose is to ensure that each project you suggest truly helps build your organisation’s future. Consider this plan as a guide that clearly outlines the direction forward, ensuring you stay on the right path. It ensures that your initiatives continually drive the organisation forward, rather than merely responding to the latest crisis.

Incorporating strategic planning in managing information

For those working with managing information, your strategic plan is a vital set of tools. It keeps your eyes on the big goals and the key ideas that help your team overcome challenges. These challenges might be dealing with huge amounts of data, following rules and laws, or keeping up with the constant stream of new information. Viewing it this way, making a business case becomes not just a one-time task but a continuous part of how your department shares its story and plans for future success.


Building blocks of the strategic plan

Mission and vision: The heart of information governance

A mission statement for your information governance department outlines the purpose behind every decision and action, clarifying the 'why' and offering a clear direction. On the other hand, the vision represents the 'what'—the ultimate goal or the long-term objective you aim to achieve.

Goals: Mapping out success in information governance

Setting specific, measurable goals turns the broad ideas of your mission and vision into a series of achievable steps. These goals, which represent the milestones you aim to reach, should be in line with the overall goals of your organisation. For example, you might aim to improve the quality of your data or meet certain compliance standards within a set timeframe. This methodical planning helps your organisation work more effectively and manage risks better.

SWOT analysis: A strategic planning tool

A SWOT analysis scrutinises your strategic plan in detail. It is essential for every information governance strategy to assess what you excel at (strengths) and identify areas needing enhancement (weaknesses). Additionally, it involves scouting for growth opportunities (opportunities) and acknowledging potential challenges (threats). This comprehensive evaluation offers a clear perspective on where your department stands and the nature of the business environment, establishing a strong foundation for making well-informed decisions.

Action plans: Laying out steps to success

Action plans are the detailed maps that show you how to move from where you are now to where you want to be. They cover the big goals and the detailed route to achieve them, including the steps needed, resources required, time frame, and criteria for measuring success. Action plans turn big dreams into achievable realities through careful planning and execution.

Piecing together the strategy: Making a complete strategic plan

Creating a strategic plan is like putting together a puzzle. You need important parts—mission, vision, goals, SWOT analysis, and action plans. When you fit these parts together, you get a full plan that guides your information management work. These elements need to be part of your everyday work and match up with your organisation's main goals. This makes your strategic plan a living, working guide that helps your department make progress.

Achieving excellence in information governance requires a clear strategy. This plan is key for creating strong business cases, making sure every new project is in line with your strategy and adds to the department's and the whole organisation's objectives. For anyone in information governance working on a business case, this strategic plan is essential. It ensures every action has a purpose, leading to ongoing improvement.

Key reasons for backing information governance projects

Supporting information governance is really about two main things: how it affects finances and how it manages risks. Understanding and clearly explaining these points is crucial when you're trying to get support from those who make financial decisions, people who are focused on increasing profits and avoiding problems.

Financial considerations: Understanding the economic impact

Cost savings: Imagine your organisation's record-keeping is as efficient as a top-performing engine. Information governance can lead to big cost savings by making data storage more efficient and getting rid of outdated systems. This frees up resources for projects that really help your organisation move forward.

Efficiency gains: The benefits don't stop at saving money. Better organising your information not only clears up the clutter but also makes your team more productive. With easier access to information, quicker responses, and faster processing, your team can do their jobs more smoothly, without the slowdowns caused by messy data.

Creating new income: Moving from cutting costs to making money, a strong information governance system doesn't just save money; it also opens up new ways to make money. How? By using clean, well-organised data to come up with new services for clients or improve what you already offer. This gives your organisation an edge, making it the go-to choice for clients who value efficiency and innovation.

Mitigating risks with information governance

Legal risks: Managing information carries big risks. A small mistake could lead to embarrassment, bad publicity, and serious legal consequences. Information governance helps navigate the complex world of legal rules, keeping your organisation within legal boundaries and avoiding problems.

Operational risks: Beyond legal issues, operational problems can also threaten your business's smooth operation. Good information governance sets up strong plans and processes, preparing your organisation to quickly deal with and fix problems as they happen. This readiness ensures your business runs smoothly in any situation, protecting against operational setbacks.

Avoiding risks: Staying away from problems

Avoiding errors, particularly in regulatory compliance, is crucial. Effective information governance helps spot potential legal issues early. Catching these early can stop them from growing, preventing big legal troubles and fines before they become major hurdles.

Mitigating risks: Handling problems when they arise

Even with careful planning, unexpected issues can still pop up. Here, risk mitigation is very important. It acts as a backup plan or safety net. With good information governance, you have the right procedures and policies in place to lessen damage. This setup improves your ability to manage and solve problems effectively.

Bridging finance and safety in IG business cases

Chris Giles summarises it well: “Money and managing risks are essentially two sides of the same coin. By reducing expenses and enhancing team efficiency, your organisation becomes nimble and agile —equipped to tackle any challenges or sidestep potential issues before they escalate. Moreover, adept risk management transcends mere problem avoidance; it also safeguards your organisation from financial losses due to penalties or security breaches.”

He adds a powerful point: “The financial and risk management aspects of your strategy aren't just minor details; they form the cornerstone of your information governance business case. Demonstrating how your plan saves money, streamlines operations, generates additional revenue, avoids legal entanglements, and manages unforeseen circumstances underscores the pivotal role of information governance as a strategic asset. It's crucial for protecting your company’s finances and upholding its reputation.”

In the next part of our series, Antony Wells will explore the basic parts of a business case, giving practical examples of how these key pieces can be used in real-world information governance situations.

To find out more watch our ILTA Masterclass: Developing an IG business case and strategic plan. During this session Leigh Isaacs, Senior Director, Information Governance at DLA Piper, Kandace Donovan, Vice President Operations, North America at LegalRM and Chris Hockey, Senior Associate with Alvarez & Marsal Disputes and Investigations focused on the key elements to consider when developing both and effective methods to communicate them to stakeholders. To view the recording, click here.    

Chris Giles is CEO & Founder of LegalRM, which creates market leading software, services and solutions for records, risk and compliance management and serves some of the world largest law firms, as well as blue chip organizations from other industry sectors.

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