Governance can be a channel play too

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Martin Atherton explains why a mismatch between information management capabilities and needs offers a golden opportunity.

Good governance helps to steer an organisation in the right direction. Applying the same principle to information quickly shows the risks that many organisations are taking with their most precious asset, but also hints at significant opportunities. Ultimately, you need to plan for the bigger picture to get things done properly. Otherwise, you just end up fixing leaks.

Recent research from Freeform Dynamics, which interviewed 500 senior business and IT leaders, shows that governance and risk management are key strategic and capability drivers in a growing number of organisations.

The question is where to start. Given that business success depends on the timely exploitation of information, the research findings suggest it is a critical and broad enough area to justify a corporate initiative.

Organisations need to call their information management capabilities into question. Most cite multiple and significant challenges at this level. For many businesses, their capabilities simply do not match their requirements, which gives the channel a lot of different targets.

Information classification is an important guide to the level of risk organisations take with their information assets. Most acknowledge that their capabilities are weak here. Information cannot be adequately exploited and protected if there is no way of tracking its location, value and sensitivity to leakage. These risks are magnified by the increasing volume of governance-sensitive information that resides outside centralised control in the business environment.

A strategy as important as this to an organisation’s long-term health needs a central point of ownership, currently lacking in most organisations. Differing attitudes to risk, levels of corporate governance projects and localised information management capabilities across different regions produce inconsistency.

The closest most organisations have come to an information governance strategy is the investment they put into compliance with industry regulations. Such isolated excellence needs to be extended across all operational processes.

But let us not kid ourselves. Complying with regulations remains a problem for many and is likely to remain the primary route inwards for information governance for some time to come. It is just that organisations are now waking up to the gains from improving business as opposed to just staying in business.

As the first port of call for a significant volume of technology purchases, the channel is always looking for a value-add and relationship building angle. As approaches with depth, longevity and end-to-end relevance go, they do not get much bigger than governance.

At its broadest level, driving a business forward on sound principles makes complete sense. Driving IT investment in the same manner does too. Bearing this in mind ­ and the broad topic of information management ­ can make you more valuable to the organisations that come to you for help. They might have a specific problem, but investing in isolation is akin to the whacking the bunny on the head fairground game: another problem soon pops up.

Context is the watchword here. Hitching your offerings and guidance to a broader strategy improves your understanding of a customer’s requirements and provides further hooks for your own portfolio of products and services.

Martin Atherton is research director of Freeform Dynamics.
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