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Information governance (IG) might be thought of as the next level of records management. It enlarges the profile of records management and involves more of the organization and its processes. If achieved, it prepares the organization to handle regulatory and legal issues before an event occurs.

IG takes a significant investment of resources—both human and technological. The impact on the humans involved must be considered throughout. Even if significant automation is introduced to support governance, there is still manual work to do. If this is not understood, appreciated, and factored into plans, it can damage morale and undermine the program's success. Rather than the expected improvements, there may actually be negative results.

Often, an IG program is initiated based on an existing or expected external pain, such as lawsuits or regulatory punishments. More rarely, it is driven by a desire to make the organization more efficient and to obtain better information. Whatever the case, all levels and functions will be affected.

As a group, senior managers in the organization should approve the investment in IG. As individuals and as representatives of their functional areas, each may have concerns about how their jobs and authority will change. Legislation, such as Sarbanes-Oxley, makes some senior managers open to incarceration if the information they release to the public is not accurate. New IG processes may very well require restructuring: Automation will reduce staff headcount, and therefore, there will be less need for as many managers. During the implementation phase, they will need to continue current work and maintain quality while supporting business conversion.

Different pressures occur in each stage of obtaining information governance: making the necessary changes and then, once completed, maintaining the improvements. Often, investment is only made with the former and not the latter (more on this later).

During the introduction of new governance methods and systems, people are forced to change the way they've become comfortable doing things for years—maybe decades. Habits need to be broken and re-formed. Creating the future requires devoting significant time and effort:
  • Staff needs to be trained on the new systems and procedures. It can be challenging for many to adapt, and initially, work will be slower through the learning curve.
  • Old information must be reviewed, corrections made, and utilized in the new processes and systems, both electronic and manual. Technology can assist with the transfer process; with a significant mountain of legacy information, it is a necessity, but it still requires staff time to validate the new data.
  • Even with the assistance of outside resources (highly recommended), internal experts must devote significant time, along with their existing responsibilities, to guide and assist the process. New processes and systems will need to be validated against the existing methods.
  • In many cases, the completion date is predetermined based upon budget cycles or legal deadlines, not required effort. This produces time pressure, and shortcuts are taken or tasks are deferred, adding to project and organizational risk.
The result is everyone in the organization is under stress. There is the potential for increasing organizational risk, when the goal of IG is to reduce risk. At this stage, you want to take mitigation approaches that will minimize the implementation impact:
  • Set expectations honestly at the outset, and listen to—and respond to—employee issues. Managers can reduce rumors and anxiety by assuring staffers what is expected to come. This may include transition training or outplacement services.
  • Defining realistic timelines and budgets so the job can be done thoroughly. Cheating at the beginning can only create problems later.
  • Temporarily relieve key internal staff from routine tasks to give them an opportunity to focus on the transition. Adding work to an already busy employee won’t ensure that it will be done properly; it will add quality risks.
  • Establishing IG training as an ongoing activity, not a one-time event. Reinforcement of new lessons is key to retention. An AIIM study found IG “effectiveness is widely crippled by poor training. Only 16% regularly train all staff, while 31% do no training at all.”
Once you are governing your information, there are challenges to keep from sliding back into being “ungoverned.” Just like dieting, everyone must make a constant effort to keep from falling back into bad behavior. In addition, there can be pushback at the new way of life.
  • Automation is a benefit to information governance, eliminating human error and ensuring consistency in processes. However, by removing manual tasks, the need for people is reduced. As a result, staff may be reassigned or released. For example, one distributor I assisted cut the four full-time employees (FTEs) involved in entering delivery confirmations down to one employee. Accuracy and timeliness of accounts payable (AP) data soared—but there were three empty desks. Those that remain may no longer enjoy their jobs. The remaining clerk admitted to being lonely and missing the social aspect of her job. Organizational insecurity distracts everyone and may encourage more departures, regrettably, more frequently by internal subject matter experts (SMEs), which leads to knowledge drain.
  • Previous procedures were likely casual or, at best, performed long after the fact. Instead, tasks are forced into a specific pattern, often with automatic reminders and tracking. People can feel controlled and under constant scrutiny and less enabled to use their own discretion. These are perceptions that are difficult to suppress.
  • The extra work necessary to maintain governance may impact productivity if other work has not been eliminated. In a conversation I recently had with a medical specialist, he complained he needs to now spend several additional hours at the end of each work day filling in practice notes and other screens in his new health information management system. He acknowledged it was now necessary but resented the added time demand. He maintained that the quality of his patient care wasn’t impacted, but his personal life had been, and he had a level of annoyance with the system.
  • Those that remain may find that their jobs are made less interesting and their performance will become lack-luster. The remaining AP clerk mentioned above felt that her work had become about feeding a scanner and boring.
It is difficult to mitigate many of these issues—they relate to people’s perception and job satisfaction. You need to be prepared when you start on the road to better governance to focus on these expectable human reactions and reduce the “friction.”

Bernard Chester has been involved with content management systems for over 25 years, assisting in the creation of products and solutions for clients in a range of industries. He may be reached at or on LinkedIn.

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