Organizations have long generated a large amount of information across many functional areas including accounting, finance and tax, human resources, client relations, marketing, and legal.

The amount of data generated in the digital age is simply massive. The image below illustrates what happens on the Internet every 60 seconds.

New challenges, innovative technologies, and their related buzzwords are continually emerging: Cloud, Big Data, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Blockchain. Data is the driver in all of these cases. For instance, the quality and reliability of AI-enabled recommendations and tasks are directly correlated to the quality and reliability of the data used to train the system. However, organizations struggle to embrace and successfully implement AI.

Meanwhile, these technologies have disrupted certain sectors of the economy. Many industries have become data collectors and their players have come innovative technology giants. For example, in the automotive industry the data collected from automobiles can be derived from simple sensor-based techniques to record and monitor the performance, maintenance, and behaviour of critical automobile systems, or more sophisticated GPS and satellite-based techniques such as tracking vehicle position and recording external conditions.

Data is everywhere. We have been hearing phrases such as "data is the new oil of the digital economy” and is more valuable than ever (Joris Toonders, Yonego; The Economist (May 6, 2017)).

Given this context and the vast potential, how can organizations manage and further leverage their data to maximize profit and reduce risk?

If organizations across all industries and sectors are now driven by data, the various complexities and challenges this raises can be more effectively addressed by recognizing the critical importance of information governance as the foundation and connector between legal, IT and business needs. This is IG 2.0, the next frontier.

Not surprisingly, people are still asking the same questions that we having been hearing for some time, but with heightened urgency:

  •  We have a lot of data, are we using it?
  •  Where can I find the data I need?
  •  Can I access the data?
  •  Can I use the data?
  •  Is the data secure?
  •  Can I share the data with my colleagues in a different country?
  •  When should I destroy the data?

The challenges of data management as part of information governance are real and growing. One of the biggest legal challenges concerns data privacy. What personal data can be shared, when and how can it be shared, and for how long can it be retained?

Take the healthcare industry, for example, where there is no interoperability between systems based on unstructured data. There is ongoing debate as to how to allow patient access to their own data while keeping it private and secure – a struggle between access/usability and privacy/security.

It is clear that exponential data growth has made data management even more complex from an operational, legal/regulatory, and compliance perspective. Thus, sound information governance is more important than ever.

What steps can an organization take to work towards better data management?

1. Truly understanding information governance is a critical first step. Full spectrum information governance is a vital part of any data management strategy because it establishes the framework, objectives (shorter and longer term), and most importantly the compliance rules.

2. Identifying the key decision-makers in the data ecosystem early in the process ensures that the needs of each stakeholder group are considered, including roles such as:

  •  Records or Information Governance Manager
  •  Chief Technology Officer
  •  Privacy Officer
  •  Legal Counsel
  •  Compliance Manager

3. Incorporating workable forward-thinking technology solutions is the key to data management today. At a strategic level, decisions are being made around issues such as cloud storage, AI, blockchain technology, and BYOD policies. Because of the critical legal implications, these technology decisions increasingly require the involvement of legal counsel to properly guide strategic data storage, use, and management decisions.

4. Considering the day-to-operational needs of the ultimate users is important and should never be left until it becomes too late to alter course from a cost perspective. Too often, “real life” use cases are not properly addressed until the time of implementation.

Understanding information governance allows the holistic development of data lifecycle management solutions. A legally compliant data management program is the foundation that enables an organization to capitalize on the benefits of today’s data-driven world, reduce risk, and more effectively pursue other initiatives and aspirations in the digital age.