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One of the big challenges for information governance professionals is getting buy-in from business stakeholders and sponsors for funding projects. Often, there is a perceived poor return on investment (ROI) that creates a lack of urgency or the impetus to move forward.

Frequently, this is a result of projects being positioned as compliance or workplace efficiency initiatives. I attended two recent presentations that offered some practical strategies to help information governance professionals align and present project initiatives in a way that will help get them funded.

One trend Forrester Research has observed for a couple of years is the “Age of the Customer,” and this customer-centricity is driving technology investments. Forrester Principal Analyst Cheryl McKinnon identified key market imperatives that are driving how companies are making technology investments, including:
  • Transformation of the customer experience—using data consistently regardless of the channel (Think: What information governance initiatives can support this?)
  • Accelerating toward the digital business—extracting data and information from paper and other unstructured content
  • Driving business growth through privacy—this will be viewed as a competitive edge if the company has the reputation (therefore, building more trust) for protecting their customer’s information proactively
If information governance initiatives are not aligned with these imperatives, McKinnon points out that they will not get much notice or funding.

Forrester also conducted a survey of 18,000 business and technology executives and asked, “What are your top corporate priorities for 2016?” The following were the top four answers:

1. Grow revenue
2. Improve the experience of our customer
3. Improve products and services
4. Reduce costs

Wow, "reduce costs" was number four. Information governance initiatives and its business case must be aligned with these corporate priorities. Reducing costs will not necessarily carry the day.

In Forrester's report "TechRadar: Information Governance Enabling Technologies, Q2 2016," one of the technologies highlighted is file analysis—which is positioned to increase to mainstream adoption in the next three to five years. This technology is foundational to conducting risk analysis of the data an organization holds and can help identify personally identifiable information (PII) and sensitive data hidden within the organization. Understanding this risk can make a difference when a company is buying or renewing cyber insurance.

In another presentation, Whitney Bouck, chief operating officer at HelloSign, told the story of what happened when she began to explore how their customers used the software. What she found was that the most common application was signing contracts. Contracts come in all forms and dictate what a company is legally bound to do or provide. These contracts include sales agreements, vendor relationships with partners, the lease for the building and facilities, employment contracts with employees, and many more. On closer inspection, Bouck discovered that many customers were not managing their contracts centrally, and this is a massive risk for companies.

This poor management, governance, and process automation of contracts can represent real financial impact. IDC conducted research in which line of business decision makers estimated they are losing 11% to 15% of sales contracts because of poor transaction management. Another example Bouck provided was Instacart, a shopping and delivery service for groceries. Instacart recruits large numbers (5,000 at a time) of shoppers. After they have been hired, they put them through an onboarding process, which includes filling out all the required paperwork. Bouck reported that Instacart would lose 30% of the new hires through this onboarding process. This represents a huge amount of lost time and a direct impact to top-line revenue and bottom-line profit, since the lost 30% are not generating revenue shoppers.

Furthermore, when Bouck personally reached out to 25 chief information officers (CIOs) and asked how they manage legally binding documents, not one of them had an answer. She stressed that central control is crucial to managing contracts and that the obligations, contract renewals, and the benefits go beyond control. They include faster time to revenue, increased conversion, stronger defensibility, reduced costs, higher quality, and less fallout.

Bouck shared her five recommendations to really control the risk related to legally binding documents and contracts:
  • Centralize contracts management
  • Ensure a defensible audit trail
  • Use templates for consistency and accuracy
  • Have clearly defined delegation of signing authority
  • Use workflow to ensure proper review, sign-off, and storage
Solving these types of business problems has a positive impact on revenue and customer experience and can contribute to improved information governance.

Information governance professionals need to make sure they are selecting and presenting proposed projects that are aligned with the organization’s top corporate priorities and positioned through the “lens” of the business stakeholders and sponsors. One way to do this is to ask. Meet with business stakeholders and ask them about their priorities. Make sure that you have a full understanding of planned and budgeted initiatives for the next fiscal year, and look for ways to select information governance projects that will complement or enable those initiatives. Then propose projects that will address those priorities or initiatives, and let information governance be an outcome—not the driver.

For more information on getting buy-in for information governance projects and building effective information management business cases, don't miss DSF ’17, May 1-3, 2017 in Downtown Chicago. Visit http://documentstrategyforum.com.

Russell Stalters is the founder of Clear Path Solutions Inc., author of gettinginformationdone.com and is a recognized information and data management expert. Previously, he was the director of information and data management and chief architect for BP’s Gulf Coast Restoration Organization. Follow him on Twitter @russellstalters.