Information Management & Strategy: An Executive Guide
- by Justice Levine
The information management landscape is changing with new and more strict legal and regulatory requirements. Additionally, the ongoing accumulation of electronic information is creating new risks and challenges for companies that occur globally. If your strategy hasn’t changed in recent years, it’s likely outdated and you may be non-compliant. Traditional strategies fail to meet these new requirements, driving many companies to re-examine how they manage information.
Proper management can benefit productivity in a number of ways, such as helping organize data for human resources, finances, and customer management, ultimately impacting the entire enterprise in a positive way. This article will discuss the issues with traditional information management strategies, and what your company can do to protect against them.
What is Information Management?
Information management is a crucial aspect of data-driven businesses that makes it easier to achieve goals by collecting and managing information from sources and distributing that information to multiple audiences. Understanding the purpose of information management can help your business enhance the use, protection, and storage of information to operate more effectively. Corporate offices are responsible for information management, as they are expected to hold themselves and their employees accountable to capture, manage, store, share, preserve, and deliver information.
What Are Information Management Challenges For Businesses?
Should a new challenge or opportunity present itself, your business needs to be ready to react in a timely fashion by being able to access information quickly. Information also needs to remain secure in order for it to be relied upon. Remote and hybrid work environments are becoming widely adopted, and having a strong Intelligent Information Management (IIM) approach in place is essential for organizations. Staff needs to be able to create, access, and manage information, regardless of where it’s located. Without a solution in place, digital information difficulties can worsen creating challenges businesses face that include:
- Using email as a de-facto information management system interferes with business transparency and accurate recordkeeping.
- Exposing business, client, and employee information from network sharing.
- Difficulty migrating and integrating projects quickly.
- Requirements for remote and hybrid work models, including the sharing of resources, documents, and internal applications are compromised.
- Reduced efficiency through resources spent on manual tasks.
What Are The Flaws in Traditional Information Management Strategies?
Organizations are aware that their information landscape contains sensitive information, trade secrets, and intellectual property. Because this information is stored on corporate file shares or content management systems they believe they are protected. Unfortunately, unsecured repositories still represent a potential risk of a data breach or leak because they lack access control.
Employees who have adopted an approach that involves saving everything just in case for email and files quickly find it difficult to find their own information among the clutter. The average employee wastes more than 3.5 hours per week searching through emails or for the correct version of files. Most information management processes today create risks and increase costs.
What Are the Benefits of Information Management?
Digital transformation initiatives can be intimidating, requiring reflection for the business as well as identifying gaps and tasks that can be digitized, understanding new technologies, and providing education for employees. Intelligent Information Management (IIM) can address these challenges and create space for your business to leverage all of its data and information. Some benefits of an IIM solution include:
- Automating information and document management, governance, and compliance tasks
- Standardizing how documents and information are managed across the business
- Turning paper-based, manual processes into digital workflows, saving time and resources
- Eliminating information silos and improving project and document transparency
- Improving information access for in-office, remote, and hybrid workers
- Strengthening information security and access management
Transitioning to The Cloud
Businesses around the world have been migrating to the cloud for years, many using the pandemic as the motivation. Making the transition has enabled businesses to both access data from home, as well as connect data between different sources. This allows the organization to make more informed decisions by accessing data and not viewing it in offline silos. Combined with cloud-based solutions, companies are able to provide all of the same benefits of on-site work environments, but with the additional benefit of flexible accessibility.
Making IT experiences positive for employees requires removing friction for them by creating a seamless use of digital platforms while going about their daily jobs, with data, information, and assets, all moving freely from one environment to another. An extraordinary cloud-based IT experience benefits customers, supply chains, and distributors, by helping to increase efficiency for the business as a whole.
Resistance from Organizations
Managing information technologies leads to more productivity. Since so much information is available at employees’ fingertips, more accessible technology is needed to unlock full human potential. By integrating both artificial intelligence (AI) and business intelligence (BI), organizations provide their employees with the necessary tools to be productive as well as a proactive mindset. Companies with AI and BI enable customer service agents to do their best job with the help of utilizing real-time insights and data about the customer that they have from multiple channels.
As all organizations are built upon information and knowledge, employees must be able to use these tools to push the business forward. Poor information management comes with many negative effects for a company and could have consequences for other aspects of the business without executives even being aware of it. For example, if your employees can access information quickly, there is increased productivity, and helping the customer takes less time, which can result in a more positive experience for them. Implementing these measures can reduce stress for employees and help with retention.
Information Management Challenges
By developing an information management policy, the staff is given direction for creating, capturing, and managing information assets to satisfy business, legal, and stakeholder requirements. It also assigns responsibilities across the agency.
Poor information management is a problem for software development teams in businesses of all sizes. Productivity suffers when information related to production is not efficiently managed.
Some challenges, as well as solutions, to information management, include:
- The staff has limited awareness of when information should be disposed of, despite company policies being set and training being provided. Your staff is a considerable factor in information leaks or confidentiality breaches. Organizations need to go beyond policy setting and regularly communicate, conduct archiving/disposal exercises with employees, and also incentivize behaviors that promote information security. The solution is to implement communication policies, conduct simulations, and reward good practices that can help employees develop information security best practices.
- Cloud adoption is growing rapidly as today’s workforce requires access to a growing amount of information, and the ability to collaborate and interact at a moment’s notice. Information is vulnerable to attack and requires a strategy to keep it secure and compliant with government regulations by security experts.
- Need for protection against ransomware and other cyber threats as many businesses fail to address a cybersecurity strategy, leaving themselves unnecessarily vulnerable.
- Data security is always a concern, particularly when there is any litigation or investigation of the data. It becomes especially important to have an information management policy that secures and encrypts such data right from the initial collection of data in any eDiscovery efforts. Electronic discovery, or eDiscovery, is the electronic aspect of identifying, collecting, and producing electronically stored information (ESI) in response to a request for production in a lawsuit or investigation.
- Generally, there is some form of a regulatory requirement on keeping records that directs what organizational information must be kept and for how long. Much like information subject to eDiscovery, information subject to these requirements should be handled delicately as businesses face potential penalties and fines for not following the laws. Businesses should consider developing a record retention plan that tells employees how long they need to keep documents to maintain compliance. Depending on the functioning of different departments, you can decide to what extent the data should be accessible.
Considerations for Information Management and Digital Transformation
Many organizations are aware of the significant information management challenges they are currently facing. Understanding how to address these challenges can be a problem in and of itself. Many businesses give in to technology trends and implement the latest content management solutions or file share approaches without having an understanding of their information management structure and comprehending how to effectively transform. This results in new systems that have the same issues as previous strategies, leading to the business failing to achieve a strong return on investment.
To properly transform, you need to develop an understanding of your business’s informational processes and practices. This includes mapping your information ecosystem, then designing a roadmap toward IIM. Failing to do so means that new technologies will simply inherit the same difficulties as those legacy applications and approaches.
What is Email Management?
Email is the standard for communication across organizations and must be included as part of the organizational standards addressing information and records. Email management involves the systematic control of the quality and quantity of electronic messages that are sent and received.
The volume of emails saved in inboxes, sent folders, and deleted folders create risks and can impact the performance of email servers as they were never designed as a means of storage for huge quantities of emails. Email management systems centrally capture emails created and received by employees. Using a classification model, retention periods and access controls can be applied to manage emails.
A study found that roughly 10% of organizations have completed an enterprise-wide email management initiative, 20% are currently rolling out a project, and even in larger organizations, 17% have no plans to do so. More businesses are migrating email to the cloud for the peace of mind that corporate mail servers and sensitive data are in a highly secure off-site location. Cloud email providers are able to devote more resources to protecting their facilities than the majority of other businesses.
Managing Email Security
Managing the security of email, as the source for the vast majority of cyberattacks, should be part of any information management strategy. Over 90% of modern cyberattacks begin with a phishing email containing threats such as spear phishing, fileless malware, and zero-day exploits. Each of these threats is rapidly evolving to become increasingly sophisticated, evasive, and costly for victims. Ensuring the integrity of the data is the only way to rely on it, which can't be achieved if phishing and ransomware attacks are successfully attacking organizations.
Proactive, multi-layered email security defenses are of critical importance to businesses’ security and success. Effective email security requires defense in depth with its model as no single security feature is sufficient in fortifying email against sophisticated modern exploits. Businesses should consider a solution with an intuitive, multi-layered design that works harmoniously to detect and block threats in real-time, building on each other to provide stronger, more effective protection than any of these features would on its own.
The Bottom Line
Modern strategies involve several motivating factors including requirements for legal and regulatory record-keeping, stricter privacy rules, an increase in the threat of breaches, and a decrease in employee productivity, and disposition. A modern strategy incorporates all these factors and also transforms stand-alone records, privacy, and discovery programs into an integrated information governance program. Ultimately a modern approach increases compliance, reduces costs and risks, and encourages productivity.
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