Alan Weintraub

Alan Weintraub

January 2019

Information Management

Your Information Catalog is the first step towards Information Governance

I have worked with many organizations to develop their information governance program.  The first step I always ask them to do is to develop a macro level view of their information sources.  Understanding the universe of information is required before any policies and procedures associated with the information can be adequately defined.  An information catalog is the collection of information organized by common groups that provide users with an overall logical view of their highly diverse set of information.  End-users need to be comfortable that the information they are using for reporting and making key decisions is trustworthy and requires minimal reconciliation.  Working in today’s digital world requires that users have the right information at their fingertips to make quick, informed decisions.  An information catalog helps answer common end-user questions:

  • Where are my documents and how can I find them?
  • What is their sensitivity, age or permissions?
  • Are they governed by regulatory compliance?
  • Are the business documents adequately protected?
  • Are the documents considered records that must be retained?

The information catalog provides the understanding of what information is being stored and used by the end-users in their daily work activities.  The steps to creating an effective information catalog are;

  • Discover and categorize the information contained in the file shares and data repositories
  • Organize information, so business users can easily find, access and interact with the information
  • Govern the information, via policies and procedures, to make it available, accessible and reliable to the organization

To reiterate, Discover, Organize and Govern are the crucial steps to helping drive maximum value from an organization’s information resources while minimizing the risk associated with relaxed access and unnecessary retention.

What is this mess – dealing with years of document hoarding

Building an information catalog from the diverse set of repositories formed by years of document hoarding is a daunting task.  Documents today are maintained in many repositories, including email, file shares, Google Drive, Dropbox and SharePoint, to name just a few. Manually reviewing and organizing the vast quantity of information is seen as an impossible task. It is critical in the implementation process to identify and separate the documents that require management from those that can be either deleted or simply left alone.

Utilizing an automated information identification tool that scans and groups huge amounts of an organization’s unstructured data is the best approach to accomplishing this time-consuming task. Organizations that use an automatic discovery tool increase business effectiveness and sales and marketing by 15 percent.    These tools are able to differentiate all sorts of file types such as contracts from employment agreements (see figure 1).  Many of the tools are Artificial Intelligence (AI) driven, enabling them to contextual understand the document and make decisions on the likeness between one document and another.  This intelligence helps yield incredibly low error rates in grouping documents into categories. Having a good understanding of the universe of files and their associated groupings within an organization is a critical task when developing an information catalog.

 Figure 1 – Automating the Discovery Process

The next step in the development of an information catalog is to organize the information into document types that align with the organization’s business structure or taxonomy. It is critical to the efficiency of any organization that the end-users understand how to access the information. End-users need to work in a familiar environment and not be forced to think differently when trying to access information.

Creating order from chaos

Developing the document types and metadata framework for each document type is often a long, tedious, but valuable effort.  The document types can be displayed in a data map that gives users a simple but effective way to navigate the organization’s information. The maturity of automated tools, such as AI and Machine Learning, has led to better capabilities in assigning metadata, value and risk to document categories and document types.  Associating value and risk to a document type will, for the first time, provide monetary insights that could be used in making strategic decisions or providing added protections to the critical information.

A data map (see figure 3) can be used as a tool to more effectively navigate through your organization’s data via the defined document types. By clicking on the graphic, you can navigate the data flows, drill down into areas of interest, and even navigate to individual files. You can use the data map to navigate and visualize the association of documents to the organization’s document types, also known as a taxonomy.

Figure 3 – Data Map

The Information catalog yields information value

Organizing and tagging the information will complete the information catalog.  The information catalog will provide the end-users with a view into a set of their trusted information.  This encompassing view into their information will enable them to make decisions around security, obsolescence, risk and retention.  The information catalog will provide the input needed to create the information governance polices that ensure the appropriate information is available, accessible and reliable when needed for analysis.  A good information catalog will provide both the organization with;

  • Information consistency and accuracy
  • Quick, accurate and easy retrieval of information
  • A high level of trust in the information
  • A set of information security and privacy policies that minimizes risk to the organization

Timely access to the right information is critical when making strategic decisions.  It is also just as important to ensure that the right security policies are in place to secure high value, high risk information.  Also, as part of a good Information Governance program, policies that identify high risk information for deletion should also be created and followed.

All too often the wrong information is used in making decisions or communicating information to interested parties. Applying consistent policies to information provides users with the assurance that they can then access and trust the data.

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