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More than a Nicety: Information Governance is a Growing Necessity

We’ve all heard it: information is a more valuable commodity than oil. Though this tired analogy may seem like an exaggeration, it is evident is that information is a commodity that can have a powerful impact on organizations – for better and for worse. From the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal to the Equifax and Capital One data breaches, business leaders and consumers alike understand information’s power over businesses and their brand. This is why organizations need to focus on information governance and how it can affect their organization’s wellbeing.

Information governance is more than simply managing information, and it’s a strategy for how that asset is protected, leveraged, and maintained. Information governance is a discipline in which employees, consumers, and organizations alike are working towards the same goals; privacy, transparency, and integrity. Today’s most visionary leaders understand the value and importance of these goals in achieving their overall mission and revenue objectives.

But how exactly is that done? Including privacy, transparency, and integrity in an organization’s mission means addressing the technology and process infrastructure that can potentially put them at risk.

The threat to privacy: dark data

So-called “dark data” is one of the most worrisome threats to consumer privacy and trust.  Dark data is simply content that is so far-flung, voluminous, and diverse that it is poorly understood.  Dark data is the byproduct of both the explosive growth in the information that has occurred in recent year, and of the diversity of information sources (traditional enterprise applications, email, social media, groupware, mobile, etc.).  By current estimates, more than half of the information in a traditional organization is comprised of dark data.

Many organizations already have cybersecurity teams, and an IT infrastructure to detect suspicious activity originating from outside their walls.  But even the most vigilant organizations may lack information governance procedures and policies in place to offset their employees’ poor information management practices.  For these reasons, organizations looking to recognize the opportunities and mitigate the risk of dark data need powerful information governance tools and processes in place to understand the information that is often hiding in plain sight – and manage it appropriately.

Toward transparency: exposing non-compliance

Because consumers are worried about their privacy, they’re beginning to make demands on organizations to show them all the information they have on them through regulations like GDPR, CCPA, NYDFS, and others. Many consumers want their information disclosed, edited, or even forgotten so that they can sleep in peace knowing that their information isn’t floating in cyberspace, waiting for it to be snatched.

In the past, consumers trusted that the policies and procedures of the organizations that they do business with would automatically ensure that their information was well-managed. It has been a huge learning curve for both consumers and the organizations that serve them to understand what information protection means, and to find robust tools policies to enable it. But now the learning curve is over, and organizations need to take action to meet these regulatory demands or face the consequences. Companies are now losing big money in the form of fines (recent fines against Marriott and British Airways totaled almost $350M), damaged reputation, and lost revenue.

Tools to support integrity

Many organizations have begun to take the steps toward compliance but have unidentified holes in their plan. They’re re-writing privacy policies without making them actionable — changing internal procedures without consulting or training their employees, saving all of the information they can to “err on the side of caution”, defining retention policies with no means to actually implement them – you get the idea.

There are easy-to-use-and-implement tools that can help plug these information management holes in the organization. Not utilizing the best available tools – software solutions, consultants, information governance professionals and experts – will undermine even a well-intentioned information management plan in short order. When a situation arises (such as an audit, litigation, or a subject access request) that requires an organization to demonstrate their diligence in governing their precious information assets, a half-hearted approach will inevitably bring little comfort.

On the Horizon

Privacy, transparency, and integrity through improved information governance are not vague, unattainable aspirations.  They are achievable goals that can be realized through a combination of technology, process, and culture change.  Products like, everteam.policy, and everteam.archive can be key technology enablers to help organizations begin this important journey.  Everteam products allow organizations to analyze files, connect to applications housing structured informatoin and unstructured data, discover and remediate dark data, apply coherent and consistent retention policies, decommission legacy apps, and migrate information, promoting higher levels of compliance and privacy. For 30 years, Everteam’s commitment to information governance has helped many of the world’s leading organizations pave a solid and lasting path to privacy and compliance, promoting customer trust, loyalty, and continued growth.

Customers are demanding more from the organizations with whom they interact. They want to put their faith back into the banks that hold their financial assets, the healthcare companies that help to safeguard their physical wellbeing, the social media giants that keep them connected with family and friends from all over the world. Privacy, transparency, and integrity have been casualties of the information age, but they can be regained through a concerted approach to information governance – with dramatic rewards for those who accept this challenge. Everteam can help your organization to realize this vision – contact us to discuss the “art of the possible” today.