Making Knowledge Work

February 6, 2011

Getting to Grips with Information Governance -LIKE 21

Filed under: Information Management, Knowledge Networking — Tags: — virginiahenry @ 3:17 pm

There’s plenty of discussion about Corporate Governance, but Information Governance isn’t a topic you come across so often. Gartner’s been talking about it for a while, but as “Information” has so many meanings to different people and organisations, discussions around defining governance frameworks for it are relatively rare.

Fortunately, LIKE loves to tackle such subjects.  We invariably take a very practical approach – asking “what is it?”, “why should we care about it?”, “how important is it to the future of my business?”……   Sometimes, when we’ve stripped away the impenetrable business, or academic, terminology that shrouds the subject – you’ll hear comments such as “Oh, that’s what it’s called!  Been doing it for ages….”   And then we have to remind each other – “common sense” for one person is new learning for another (and the “common sense” we’re alluding to almost certainly started as new learning for the cognoscenti).

Hanna Kazerani is a woman of uncommon sense, and she was an excellent practical guide to the topic of Information Governance.

Her varied career has focused on information – whether as a journalist or parliamentary speech writer, or as a consultant with Andersen, TFPL or The Content Group.

When with Andersen, she spent a year in Silicon Valley running a sandbox for big multi-nationals, exploring the ways information technology could help their businesses.  She realised that, although these organisations were buying lots of applications, they weren’t very clear on how to use them or connect them with each other.  Their business information had no business intelligence applied.

At TFPL she set up a content management practice and started to audit information for clients such as the Inland Revenue. Invariably she found her clients’ information affairs were in a mess.  The Revenue had millions of internet and intranet pages – and much of the content was out of date and unhelpful.

Since then she’s been on a mission to inform her clients on how to cost-effectively store information and how to manage it.

Recently she ploughed her way through a utility company’s unstructured store of 45 million documents (around 20 terabytes).  Of those 45 million documents 32 million were duplicates. Her recommendations saved them more than £1million in storage costs.

Hanna set the LIKE group a challenge – to work on two scenarios in small groups and come up with some answers:

Scenario 1 was “You’re an information manager in a company with around 2,000 employees.  Your task is to rationalise the disparate information policies (where they exist) and draw together a framework.  What are the top 8 elements, or chapter headings, of your draft framework?

Scenario 2 focused on an organisational implementation of SharePoint: “You’re an information Manager preparing for your first meeting with your IT colleagues about SharePoint – what issues will you raise?  How will you ensure a successful long-term relationship with your IT colleagues?

After ten or fifteen minutes of intense debate, LIKE’s members had come up with lots of practical answers to Hanna’s questions.

The teams working on the draft information governance framework had identified these priorities:

  • Conduct a knowledge and information audit
  • Investigate current data policies
  • Analyse current information lifecycles, and get an understanding of the landscape of information ownership
  • Consider issues such as data security
  • Define what information means within the organisation
  • Look at current taxonomies and classification
  • Identify the thought leaders in the organisation, and get a clear picture of responsibilities at board and leadership level
  • Implement training – so that everyone is clear about their role in information governanc

Those who were focused on the SharePoint scenario had plenty of suggestions for issues to discuss with their IT colleagues and strategies for ensuring good relations.  These included:

  • Identifying the full range of responsibilities and sharing them fairly between the Information and the IT teams
  • Explaining business requirements clearly, and making sure you understand IT’s perspective
  • Ensuring regular communication and cross-discipline collaboration
  • Agreeing an approach that satisfies both parties
  • Discuss things over a pint!

There was general agreement that information governance was the responsibility of everyone in an organisation – not simply the domain of the IT department.  Vendors love to call their applications “solutions” (just as they like to name the unfathomable verbiage that accompanies their software “help files”), but most KIM professionals and honest CIOs know that the application is only an element of the solution.

Knowledge Managers are accustomed to repeating the mantra “people, process and technology together” when explaining the impact a new implementation will have on a business.  Actually, Knowledge Managers do a wide range of things to help organisations thrive, and although the terms KM, Knowledge Management, or KIM, Knowledge and Information Management are well known, what KM and KIM professionals actually do isn’t common knowledge.

At the end of this month LIKE will be hacking through the undergrowth of jargon and misconception to throw some light on what Knowledge Management really is about.  I’d invite you along, but we’re already fully booked……  You’ll have to revisit this blog to hear how it went 🙂

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