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Establishing a collaborative information governance committee is vital to sustaining a records and information management (RIM) program. In the past, organizations often formed an oversight committee to act as a watchdog, but today, members of the information governance committee come to the table with an equal voice for their agenda. The real challenge is getting the right players to the table and keeping them there.

To most, records and information represent the dirty laundry that needs cleaning, but no one wants to do the wash. So, how do you get everyone to pitch in and do their fair share of the cleanup? There are two basic approaches, but in both cases, a cross-section of the organization will need to come to the table and contribute, beginning with legal, RIM, risk, information technology, privacy and security, and the different lines of business and functions.

The Top-Down Approach

In this approach, the importance placed on information governance throughout the organization comes from the top (e.g., executive management, vices, and chiefs). These types of leaders are often driven by compliance and risks associated with high-profile litigations, especially in heavily regulated industries where adherence to such laws is essential for the longevity of the organization.

With the arrival of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and growing privacy issues, this requires attention at the highest level. Now, similar requirements are coming into play in other countries as well. The penalties can be so significant that top-level management must sound the alarm; otherwise, no one will take heed. Ultimately, the executive team must take responsibility for action or inaction. Therefore, prioritizing information governance must come from the top and filter down to the ranks.

The Bottom-Up Approach

In less regulated businesses with limited litigation risks, there is little motivation at the top to spend money and resources on sound information governance practices, unless they see a substantive return on investment.

In this scenario, a bottom-up approach is more appropriate, since line managers can measure improvements (such as productivity, efficiency, and operational savings). Those who perform the day-to-day operational tasks are the ones most affected. They are less able to perform their duties efficiently, spend more time looking for information, and often work in chaotic spaces or with cluttered minds. As such, their motivations are vastly different from executive management. Unless the rank and file voice their needs and concerns to upper management, the organization will remain inefficient and miss opportunities to save money.

In the bottom-up approach, employees must speak up and make their supervisors or managers aware of their concerns until it reaches those in a position to act.

Whether you adopt a top-down or bottom-up approach (or somewhere in the middle), the reality is that every organization must manage and clean up their records and information on a regular and consistent basis. It either starts at the top and filters down or is voiced from the bottom and filters up. Hopefully, they will meet somewhere in the middle, and both parties can agree on the importance of good information governance.

Cindy Zuvich, CRM, is the Principal of Unigrated Global, an information governance consultancy and records management services company based in White Plains, New York. Contact Cindy at