How Information Governance Adds Value to the Risk Reduction Focus of Records Management

By Nick Inglis

Though records management has primarily focused on reducing organizational risk, there has been a major change for records managers in how information governance adds value to it. Traditionally, records managers have focused their efforts around organizational risk reduction. Records management departments have fallen under global risk and compliance, legal compliance or various other risk-oriented departments.

Though records management has primarily focused on reducing organizational risk, there has been a major change for records managers in how information governance adds value to it. Traditionally, records managers have focused their efforts around organizational risk reduction. Records management departments have fallen under global risk and compliance, legal compliance or various other risk-oriented departments.

Records Management and Information Governance

While some see information governance as relabelled or reimagined records management, one of the major differences is that information governance is an organizational enabler that provides business insight and value. In the recent Information Governance Initiative 2015-2016 Annual Report, 92% of respondents said that risk and value are equal partners in information governance. The same cannot be said of records management.

E-discovery, Records Management and Information Governance

Likewise, information governance is not just the combination of records management and e-discovery. Instead, information governance is the umbrella under which records management and e-discovery fall, in conjunction with security, compliance, data management, risk management, privacy, business intelligence and even data science. The coordination of these roles and activities, bringing together the people, policies, processes and technologies, is what makes information governance a unique concept, market and model.

Opposing Forces

It would seem that adding value and reducing risk would be at odds with one another, and in some ways, they are. Information governance planning provides the opportunity to establish the balancing act of risk versus value for an organization. Records management, on the other hand, focuses solely on risk reduction and other related organizational areas, such as business intelligence and data science. With a focus on exclusively adding value, information governance begins to bridge the gap. Information governance forces a conversation around risk tolerance and the potential value of information.

It is not entirely uncommon for individual roles or departments to be at odds with one another over the value and risk of information. The company must define an acceptable level of risk as an opposing factor to the potential for information to be of value.

For example, under common records management practice, a seven-year-old spreadsheet of a particular product's sales, segmented by the store where the item was sold, would be ready to be disposed of. However, if the actual contents of the spreadsheet do not represent much of a risk, it may be worthwhile to keep the spreadsheet for the purposes of long-term trend identification. In many organizations, that thought would be heresy, since keeping the spreadsheet would represent an inconsistency in records management practice. Depending on the organizational risk tolerance levels, the true concern may be what would best serve the business.

Serving the Organization

In any other role in an organization, records management and information governance exist to serve the organization's needs. According to some, it is time for records management to evolve into information governance in order to provide both value and risk reduction while maintaining and providing a level of expertise around information management that companies will continue to have a strong need for. That is how information governance adds value both to the company and the records manager. The shift from risk to both risk and value may be challenging, but for those able to make that change, both the business and individual are rewarded.