Simulated IG Steering Committee Shines Light on Real IG Challenges

No matter how hard you try, it is impossible to launch a comprehensive information governance (IG) program without first forming a steering committee, according to experts participating in a mock steering committee meeting Tuesday at the National Conference on Managing Electronic Records, taking place this week in Chicago, IL.

“[Launching an IG program] never succeeds if you have only one stakeholder to drive it home. It’s imperative that you have a marriage of two, if not three stakeholders” on an IG council, said panelist Sylvan (Sibito) H. Morley, vice president of IT infrastructure and operations at DaVita Kidney Care. “You can’t do this in silos.”

To demonstrate exactly this need for collaboration in IG, the simulated IG committee meeting was made up of IG experts, consultants, and executives who each represented the key members of a newly formed information governance council of a fictional company called Sledgehammer. Each panelist offered perspectives from Sledgehammer’s legal, IT, compliance, finance, and administrative departments, and discussed likely topics that IG steering committees are grappling with as they develop governance policies.

Topics for discussion, which should be familiar to any health information professional (HIM) included:

  • Deciding what to do with thousands of boxes of records acquired during a merger
  • Setting retention schedules for these records based on risk and privacy concerns
  • Debating whether or not to invest in cloud storage so that electronic records never have to be deleted
  • Setting limits on how long e-mails can be kept
  • Deciding which records are an enterprise asset and which ones are legal liabilities in an e-discovery scenario.

Getting IG Started

The steering committee simulation was intended to reflect the heated debates companies have when entering the IG process, as well as the culture change needed to make it work. An informal survey of the audience revealed only a handful of attendees work at companies with established IG steering committees or have formal IG programs in the works. Another show of hands found that many more organizations with attendees at the conference are in the “aspirational” stage of getting IG off the ground.

During the Q&A session that followed the mock meeting, panelists discussed strategies for getting started. The consensus among the panelists was that IG has to begin with baby steps such as forming an IG council—which for many companies is no small feat.

“For companies that don’t have the appetite to go after this—if you have a company of good old boys, just do it. Do something. Get people in a room,” advised Elly Bracamontes, program administrator, records and information management, at the NACCO Materials Handling Group.

It’s also crucial that the steering committee have the ability to act on the decisions they make and take action on the things they discuss.

Panelist Kurt Wilhelm, director of information governance at NBC Universal, described the steering committee he formed, which includes representatives from the CIO and CTO’s office, as well as the IT, finance, legal, intellectual property, human resources, corporate communications, records management, and e-discovery departments.

An audience member asked Wilhelm how to manage all the posturing that each of these departments and their representatives brings to the table.

“You’ve got to be patient and let people have their say,” Wilhelm emphasized. “Our first few meetings were quite honestly terrible. People tried to talk over each other, some stayed silent. But it’s gotten a lot better. That posturing is just going to happen.”

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