Evolution of Information Management


ARK Group Continual Evolution of Information Management and GovernanceA short while ago I had the privilege of chairing the ARK Group’s event in Melbourne on the Continual Evolution of Information Management and Governance. This was really an apt title for this event. In the last few years with the increased interest in cloud, mobile, real-time and big data we have in fact seen a real evolution of technology. Information management is bursting under the increased pressure to keep up – especially with increased demands for compliance, privacy protection, records management, traceability, audit-ability and much more. In this blog I report the key learnings from the event, with some additional commentary added here and there.


One of the common themes that came to the fore throughout the event, was that the one of the biggest challenges in tackling data governance is that of affecting and modifying peoples’ behaviours. This covers from stakeholders, who need to be educated to understand the importance of owning and mandating the process, down to operational personnel who need to adapt to changing business processes. Key contributors to this topic were Alan Doyle from NAB and Vanessa Hose from Victoria Department of Treasury and Finance. Now, you can sometimes coax people to modify their behaviours by adjusting the KPIs they are managed on, but you have to be very careful how you implement this – not well thought through KPIs may lead to unexpected and unwanted behaviour.

We often hear the best practice advice to “involve the business”, but that is often much harder than it seems. Yes, they get invited to meetings and workshops. Yes, they get assigned as data stewards and data subject owners. Yes, they have data related responsibilities and KPIs… But that does not necessarily bring them “on board” as part of the team. It is often “softer” approaches, such as team building activities, different forms of collaborative communication, and other forms of involvement which really make them feel part of the team. Em Campbell-Pretty from Telstra illustrated the use of team-building approaches (such as the book-club, the agile wall, innovation competitions, informal communication, stand-up meetings and many more) to improve the team dynamic as well as the business involvement. This is crucial especially with agile approaches, where business interaction is most crucial to meet the tighter timeframes, and where the business’ closer and active involvement makes a real difference.

Tools and technologies

There are also technologies which can play a contributing role in this process. Vanessa Hose and Vincent McBurney from Certus Solutions discussed useful tools, such as an information asset register, a collaborative data dictionary or wiki, a policy tree, model maps and tools that assist with collaborative process flows. Metadata is still a crucial component of data management, and will always play a key role in data governance efforts. However, the nature of metadata repositories are that they are very process focused (database application, ETL or reporting) and not enough focused on the business views and the data governance aspects – most probably because those are much harder to implement and manage.

Breadth of governance

Data governance initiatives are often triggered by a single data-related aspect that is either problematic, a key business enabler or a high priority item. Examples include data quality, MDM, data consistency, a particular requirement for data integration, compliance, and so on. That particular aspect normally gets all the attention it needs, but the challenge is not to allow it to mature in isolation, but to grow the whole data governance discipline around it. Data governance encompasses many facets of data including data quality, metadata management, document and content management, reference and master data management, security, privacy, and much more. So kicking off the initiative around a burning point like data quality or MDM is relatively easy – the complexity comes in addressing the other data governance components as well – in related timeframes, with related priorities. Failing to do that will lead to a very one-sided data governance effort. Alan Doyle and Vincent McBurney spoke to this topic. One needs to consider approaches to incorporate a wider spectrum of aspects governed as the data governance journey progresses.

A presentation in a similar vein was by Stuart Coulson of the Australian Tax Office. The discussion started around governing information security, but very quickly expanded to the ATO’s full Information Management Strategic Framework, which covers the entire information life cycle from a variety of angles such as ownership, standards, assurance and auditing. The Forensics and Investigations unit employs a data science team, which operates on a full copy of the ATO’s data sets. You can imagine how important adhering to privacy and security legislation is in their environment.


Lastly, the interactive panel session with Tim Newbegin from Cardinia Shire Council and Ruth Edge from the Yarra Ranges Council on the paperless office was very interesting and fascinating. I was sceptical that the paperless office could even exist, least of all in a local council. Tim gave an enthusiastic account of how the Cardinia Shire Council has already progressed far along the track to achieve that goal, pointing out useful approaches that can be applied elsewhere too.

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