While directors might expect to see the financial statements at every board meeting, accountability and oversight of information assets is lacking, says author and researcher James Price MAICD. Boards need to insist that a senior leader takes responsibility to manage, harness and provide the necessary coordination and governance of information assets to boost visibility and productivity, and reduce vulnerability and risk throughout an organisation. 

    1. Change is difficult — start small

    Information assets are used by every person in the organisation. Start by calling information the right thing and by putting all the parts in the right place. Information assets include databases, data files, contracts and agreements, system documentation, user manuals, training materials, business continuity plans, back-up plans, audit trails and archived information. This is not an exhaustive list. I use the analogy of “the messy shed”. Take the stuff out of the shed. Have a look at what you’ve got. Put in some shelves and put some labels on the shelves. Define what there is and define what goes where so you can find it, manage it and ensure governance is adequate and ongoing.

    2. Information assets are valuable and vulnerable

    You must identify your most valuable and vulnerable information assets — and who creates and uses them. Conceptually, it’s incredibly simple, but board members and C-suite executives can find it difficult to understand because it has never been part of their remit. No-one really knows what to do with information assets in order to make sense of how to organise it. And then how to value information assets. Once you’ve worked out what’s there, you’ll have better clarity as to what value to give them. You will also be better able to see how to protect your organisation’s information assets.

    3. Manage and govern your own information assets

    Assess the maturity of your information assets governance and management practices, and ensure you’re doing this from inside the company. By all means, seek advice externally, but your information assets are arguably the most important your organisation holds, so you need to ensure you’re not outsourcing that. You have to build capability and capacity within the organisation. That provides the backbone to ongoing understanding and management of your information assets. Companies that do the benefits realisation will understand the risk and benefits, then want to continually improve once they see that value. That has to be done from within the organisation.

    4. AI is changing everything

    Doing nothing condemns you to being left behind, so determine your desired future state, then develop a roadmap for improvement. Organisations need to be AI-ready, but it’s about data, not technology. They think if they don’t innovate, they’ll die, but if they don’t innovate properly, they will fail. The delivery mechanism is critical, but that’s not what makes the difference. Information is important, and not knowing what information you have has consequences.

    5. Impose governance at business and asset levels

    Directors need to insist on the development and implementation of a governance model, and management needs to be delegated to take responsibility for it happening. Make a single person accountable for information assets quality — and definitely don’t give that role to IT.

    A lot of this is about changing behaviours. You need to appoint a person who is going to be able to impose standards and behaviours on the entire organisation. I look for somebody passionate about driving business incomes and outcomes, who understands that by governing and managing their data, information and knowledge, they can drive — my research suggests — somewhere between a 10 per cent and 20 per cent business performance improvement. This person must be senior enough to make something happen. The most successful organisations in this space have been those that have put somebody very senior in this role, occasionally even the CEO.

    James Price MAICD is the founder and MD of Experience Matters, a firm that helps organisations protect and maximise their data and information value. He is co-author with Nina Evans of Information Data Management and chair of the Data Leaders organisation.

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