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Do you save every item you bring into your home? Most likely, no, but do you save every email, every document, or every IM—regardless of whether or not it has value? I do, and I don't think I am that out of the ordinary.

Now, imagine this problem on a much larger scale—a company with thousands of employees scattered throughout the world. In this scenario, this business does not have control over its information, which could lead to significant legal and compliance issues.

The greater issue, however, stems from missed business opportunities. Hidden in your piles and terabytes of structured and unstructured information is a small portion of data that reveals business trends. The insights derived from this data can deliver true value and be transformative.

So, how do you take control and unlock your data’s value?

The answer lies in having a sound information governance (IG) program. IG is defined by Gartner “as the specification of decision rights and an accountability framework to ensure appropriate behavior in the valuation, creation, storage, use, archiving and deletion of information.” A strong IG program enables organizations to use their information to achieve business objectives.

Implementing an IG program can be a complex undertaking that can be riddled with a myriad of problems if it is not tackled strategically. The five tactics outlined below help companies design an effective and efficient IG program that achieves business needs, objectives, and legal requirements.

1. Assess your current state.
Utilize ARMA International's Maturity Model to determine where your business stands today. Your assessment will be used to determine what steps are achievable in the near-term and what items should be longer term objectives. It is critical to be honest about your organization’s maturity. If you are not, you will most likely build an unachievable plan.

2. Involve your leadership team.
Your executives must serve as IG champions. Their support will trickle down to employees. Without their endorsement, you risk not having employee participation across all departments and levels. Earn their support by demonstrating the program’s return on investment and ability to reduce risk.

3. Establish a cross-functional committee.
Many of us cringe when we hear the word “committee,” thinking it can slow down the process. However, having a dedicated group, comprised of key stakeholders who represent the entire organization, is critical to the program’s success. The program must support all employees’ workflows and help make their jobs easier. The committee should include legal, information technology (IT), compliance, information security, and your business units (e.g., finance and human resources).

4. Develop a clear, comprehensive policy.
Make sure you take a holistic view, covering everything from structured and unstructured data to retention, deletion, and backup data. Check and double-check that you have all critical items and scenarios covered. In addition, your policy must be written in layman’s terms, enabling employees at all levels to understand their role and responsibilities.

5. Understand IG is an ongoing initiative, not a one-time project.
To be effective, you need to be dedicated to monitoring and improving your program on an ongoing basis. This includes staying up-to-date on regulations, company needs, and employee participation. Create a proactive environment versus waiting for a negative occurrence, such as a security breach, to trigger action and change.

Ken Bechard is the Vice President and General Manager of Off-site Operations at Novitex Enterprise Solutions. With more than 30 years of experience, he has a track record of designing solutions to improve both operational performance and financial value. For more information, visit

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