How to Get Executive Support for Your Next Information Governance Initiative
Back in 2017, I called up a few of the information governance friends I’d made through the AIIM Community to better understand the challenges they were up against.
As we engaged in a bit of Socratic dialogue, it became clear to us all that the perceived role of information governance had to shift from a singular focus on risk and cost reduction. If they don't, they will NEVER change the status of information management within their organizations. The key to this transformation is aligning information management decisions with business decisions.
"The C-suite wants to see governance practitioners and practices deliver tangible value back to the business by using information to support better customer experiences and customer intelligence." - Peggy Winton, CEO of AIIM
Four years later, we're finally seeing this shift in governance mindsets in nearly every AIIM member organization we speak with. Information and information systems are expected to improve the performance of the organization, not drag it down or limit its growth.
That's a tall order when most records managers and governance folks feel disconnected from the business strategy driving their organizations and outright ignored by the same executives levying such high expectations on them.
So, how the heck are you supposed to get the support and sponsorship you need in order for your information governance initiatives to be successful? Let's dive in!
What Does Information Governance Mean in 2021 and Beyond?
According to Robert Gerbrandt, Global Head of Information Governance at Iron Mountain, information governance is:
"Information governance is the specification of decision rights and an accountability framework to ensure appropriate behavior in the valuation, creation, storage, use, archiving, and deletion of information. It includes the processes, roles and policies, standards, and metrics that ensure the effective and efficient use of information in enabling an organization to achieve its goals."
The last seven words in that definition are so important that I underlined them. According to AIIM's State of the Intelligent Information Management Industry report, the key drivers for any information governance initiative are:
- Faster customer response
- Better customer and supplier intelligence
- More personal and accurate customer service
Customer, customer, customer! That's no coincidence. There's an evolution taking place in the marketplace today. According to the Customer Experience Report by RightNow, 82% of consumers have stopped doing business with a company because of a negative experience. Customers have very high expectations and are far less tolerant of bad experiences.
Today's consumers don't view companies through the same lens of industry, geography, or size that they used to. If your customer has a remarkable customer experience with Chewy.com, they expect that same level of care from you, even if you’re an insurance company or a local government department.
The company that's able to offer the most relevant and personalized journey will be the company that earns the customer’s loyalty. Your executives know this and they're expecting everyone in the organization to play a role, even you!
Hurdles to Information Governance Success
We asked the attendees of a recent virtual event, "What's holding you back in your organization's efforts to automate information governance and compliance?" It was a check all that apply question. Here's what they said:
- 47% - Initial expense to implement.
- 40% - Lack of business case to sell the value.
- 34% - Slower than expected adoption after initial implementation.
- 32% - Employee resistance.
- 26% - Training users on potential applications.
- 21% - Unrealistic expectations.
- 16% - Selecting the right vendor.
It's no real surprise that the top two answers are perceived cost and a lack of business case to sell the value. It has been difficult for those in the information management industry to effectively articulate the value of information and justify making the investment to not only protect it, but to leverage it.
Here are just a few responses from a recent survey where we asked members of the community what the relationship was between information governance and the c-suite in their organizations:
"Information governance is an afterthought. They regard us as just a cost center."
"There is no connection between information governance and the c-suite."
"The c-suite needs a lot of convincing to provide the support and sponsorship that we need."
Does any of this sound like your organization? If so, don't lose hope. There's a path forward, and I'm going to share it with you now.
How to Create an Information Governance Strategy Your Executives Care About
1. Understand what your executives care about most.
What are your organization's five-, three-, and one-year goals and priorities? Do your executives want to reduce customer churn? Or maybe they want to improve their Net Promoter Score or some other customer satisfaction metric. How can you align your information governance strategy to support these broader objectives?
2. Create a risk/value framework.
Create an internal framework in which you assign a risk metric and a value metric to the various sources of information in your organization. Focus your information governance strategy on those information sources that are both high risk and high value. AIIM's Peggy Winton says, "Doing so means transitioning from viewing a record as just something you store, archive, or retain to something of real value."
3. Develop your information governance strategy.
Align your information governance strategy with your organization's business strategy and focus on the sources of valuable information coming into your business. A good information governance strategy should be able to answer the following questions:
- Why does my strategy matter to the organization?
- How does it make a difference?
- What do I need to make that successful?
- What will be the results, or how can we quantify what we anticipate the results to be?
4. Choose the right proof points.
Having a strategy is great, but it's not enough. You'll want to arm yourself with proof points that will get your executives or line of business owners to actually care about your information governance initiatives and practices. Kevin Craine, AIIM's Content Strategist, says, "The more we can speak to the metrics that will move the needle in terms of organizational performance, the more we'll get the support and sponsorship that we need."
5. Learn to speak the language of the executives and the supporters you need.
Drop the technical jargon. You want your audience to understand what the heck you're talking about! The way you talk about information governance should change based on with whom you're speaking. Tell your CEO how amazing the expected ROI of your initiative is going to be. But when you're talking to a line of business owner, explain how it could make their team more efficient.
6. Learn how to be a storyteller and market your ideas.
Don't just send your information governance strategy in an email and call it a day. Treat every initiative like you're pitching a business idea on Shark Tank. This is going to require you to be a good storyteller. Fortunately, there are dozens of incredible books that can teach you how. You'd be surprised how much this makes a difference when trying to convince people to do something.
7. Automate your governance and compliance tasks to the maximum extent possible.
If you want to maximize the amount of time you have to work on the more strategic activities the C-suite is expecting from you, you have to get out of all that manual governance work. Free yourself by automating as much as you can. Good information governance is when your users don't even know it's happening. That's how you know you've been successful.
In order to get the support and resources you need, you're going to have to change the C-suite's perception of information governance. That means transforming it from a cost center to one delivering real value. You need to become intimately familiar with your organization's business strategy and the metrics and objectives the C-suite cares about most.
It's only when your information governance strategy is aligned to the business strategy that you'll get the time and money your department has deserved all along. And, you just might find yourself getting invited to a seat at the table for more strategic conversations too!