How remote work affects information governance

As many teams still work remotely, organizations may struggle to manage content. Information governance teams should revisit their policies to ensure proper access and security.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to permanent remote and hybrid workforces, so organizations must try to transform temporary information governance measures implemented in 2020 into long-term solutions.

Information governance professionals have been in reaction mode amid the pandemic to keep up with rapid workplace changes. Historically, as organizations acquired new technology, they considered information governance requirements around control, auditing and long-term preservation. However, in the scramble to keep people productive during the pandemic, organizations have often ignored information governance to get tools, like collaboration platforms, deployed immediately.

Information governance has become more critical since 2020 because remote work strategies have dispersed data and employees. As the reality that business operations won't return to the way they were sinks in, organizations must use more adaptive and permanent approaches to address their information governance requirements.

3 methods for improving information governance for remote work

Information governance teams can take the following three steps to properly manage information as employees collaborate and exchange data remotely.

1. Review and update policies

An organization should review its information governance approach to ensure its policies make sense. Old policies created before digital transformation may be convoluted, as workers often added exceptions to each rule.

For instance, a policy may originally state that workers must keep all merger-related documents for seven years but, over time, may acquire exceptions related to who signed the document.

Consider the following example of a data retention policy with multiple exceptions added to it:

  • Original policy. Keep a merger-related document for seven years.
  • Exception 1. If the CEO signed it, keep it for 10 years.
  • Exception 2. If the CEO and chief counsel both signed it, keep it for 15 years.

Organizations may have more easily managed these convoluted policies when dedicated records managers stored and preserved paper documents. However, these policies can overcomplicate automation rules in the digital era.

This challenge led organizations to take a big-bucket approach, which involves consolidating documents into larger groups with simple retention policies. Employees could more easily understand this approach than more convoluted techniques. A big-bucket approach could simplify policy automation, file documents into digital repositories and help employees understand what they should do next.

However, the growth of the collaboration tools market means content is everywhere, and relying on a central repository isn't feasible. Additionally, video content continues to spread as many employees record meetings.

To handle the growing amount of recorded meetings, information governance teams should ask questions like the following:

  • How long should organizations keep meeting recordings?
  • Should organizations let governance tools automatically delete recordings?
  • Can people delete recordings when they want, or should organizations preserve them?
  • What is the determining factor for these decisions? Is it the topic, participants or some other factor?

While these questions are difficult to answer, organizations must adopt or craft effective policies to manage recorded meeting data. However, organizations shouldn't base these policies on storage limitations because employees could use recorded content for training, watching meetings they missed or revisiting old meetings.

2. Use automation

Some employees may resist performing information governance duties, likely because they don't realize its importance. The average remote worker may not know what happens behind the scenes in collaboration tools and may assume IT teams can handle any issues. However, that assumption is often incorrect for tools deployed amid the pandemic.

Information governance policy automation is key for organizations to maintain compliance. Many tools that organizations adopted amid the pandemic have APIs, which can enable automation. Data federation technology -- which lets users manage data from various sources in a central location -- can use a collaboration tool's API to reach in and pull content out.

This technology can manage content within a collaboration tool, as it can apply security controls and remove unwanted items. Organizations should be transparent and train employees on how to use data federation software.

3. Communicate the importance of information governance

Employees should know why information governance matters. They should understand how record preservation, risk prevention and search functionalities affect their organization's success. While information governance training can help, organizations must go a step further.

In addition to formal training, technology leaders should regularly update employees on information governance. Ideally, these details should integrate into the normal flow of discussion. If a team gives a briefing on a new project or system, they should mention its information governance aspects.

Because most organizations' IT infrastructures changed amid the pandemic, information governance professionals should use this time to explain changes that systems require to maintain compliance. When employees understand why information governance matters, they're more likely to take it seriously.

A chart that lists three methods to improve information governance for remote work
Explore three methods to improve information governance for remote work.

The future of information governance

Amid the pandemic, information governance professionals should focus on adjusting to the needs of the hybrid work environment and less on reducing risk. As organizations embrace hybrid work models, they must deploy new tools and strategies -- like collaboration tools, which can help reduce risk.

Information governance can help organizations successfully manage data across multiple systems. Adaptability and resilience are the keys to success in uncertain times.

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