It’s clear several months into COVID-19 that not all organizations have adjusted well to the new remote work conditions. A few months ago we outlined four things you could do to minimize the information management disruption in your organization. In this post I’ll recommend four steps you should take in your IG (information governance) roadmap to effectively address IG during and after COVID.
1. Consolidate to a Standardized Digital Workplace Toolbox
Your organization should consolidate to a standardized digital workplace toolbox with a clear understanding of which tools are best suited to which tasks. You don’t necessarily have to consolidate to just one vendor and its products (e.g. Microsoft with Teams, SharePoint, and some other Office 365 pieces). But you shouldn’t have more than ten. One of our clients started on the road to rationalize from over 40 tools down to nine. That’s a good start.
Most of your remote information management requirements boil down to these four capabilities:
- Having threaded discussions with immediate workgroup members
- Sharing documents with workgroup members
- Holding video conferences with workgroup members
- Storing the final documents resulting from work for longer-term reference
You could standardize on Teams for workgroup collaboration and work-in-progress file sharing, and SharePoint document libraries for longer-term document retention. But there are other combinations of products that would also work.
We held a post-COVID IG roundtable with some of our clients recently and common tools beyond Microsoft products included Google Drive and Docs, Webex, Zoom, Skype, etc. Pretty much what you’d expect. But many of these clients were moving from a mix of approved and tolerated tools to a smaller more rational set.
2. Define and Communicate Clear Standards and Guidelines
Next, define and communicate clear standards and guidelines to help employees comply with IG policies when they are working remotely using a variety of repositories, collaboration tools and applications. (The tool set may possibly still be large, but hopefully is shrinking).
The guidelines should explain what you must do/must not do/can use for such cases as:
- The typical use cases described above (file sharing, long term document retention, video conferences, etc.)
- Different security classifications (sensitive, confidential, internal, or public)
- Types of participants (internal/external)
- Records classification (record, non-record work-in-process or reference, non-record transitory)
We’ve found that those organizations who did this before COVID, as part of an unforced digital transformation or ECM strategy, were in much better shape than those who had to scramble to do it once the pandemic was upon us.
Some of the COVID-motivated changes are to address new network outages and bandwidth problems caused primarily by video; signed agreements and home inspections for “private home workplaces;” and more rigorous retention – e.g. three year blanket preservation for SharePoint content, or Webex notes on a corporate asset server.
3. Update Business Area IG Roles and Responsibilities
Update the roles and responsibilities of the local/business unit records coordinators (or data stewards, custodians or super users) to address the new COVID-related challenges, tool sets, policies and best practices. We’ve found that those organizations who have “IG Coordinators” and “IG Accountable Executives” defined and identified in the units are doing much better than those who didn’t. They have two-way communication and reporting channels already in place, and are ready for the new instructions.
4. Provide IG Service Offerings to Your Internal Customers
Prior to COVID we helped our clients develop their IG capabilities to define and provide service offerings to their customers (the other business areas) to help them work effectively and meet their IG requirements. This post dives into greater detail on how.
These service offerings include developing departmental file plans, remediating shared drives, optimizing ECM systems, and a few other hot items. The service offerings range from purely advisory (communication and training, or a playbook on how to safely collaborate) to assistance, or to the IG group doing most of the work. We’ve found that those organizations who engage with their customers through prepackaged service offerings do much better in fulfilling enterprise IG requirements efficiently.
We recommend that if you already use this service approach, add COVID-relevant services to the catalog. Provide advice and services to help each business area configure a set of collaboration tools for compliance and effectiveness. If you don’t already have such an approach for your IG group, take advantage of the crisis and start with the recommendations in this post, culminating in helping the groups fulfill them.
All four steps outlined above are productive steps to take as you travel down the path to a more mature IG program. But now that we face COVID-related safety issues, the urgency is greater. If you need to jumpstart your plans, we can help.