Information Governance: Why You Should Care

One of our clients was asked to create a simple report comparing “net-new” sales (sales to first-time customers) to existing customer sales.  At the time, our client felt that the report would be easy; estimating that it would take an afternoon to develop and a couple of hours to test.

Two weeks into the effort and the report still wasn’t done.  Our client was beyond frustrated.  She had committed the report to management, but the more she worked, the more problems she encountered.

The challenges had nothing to do with our client’s technical or report-writing skills.  She had written hundreds of reports during the course of her career and had strong data-wrangling skills.  The challenges arose from the lack of context and conflicting terms within her target data sources.

A simple example:

  • Data Source A: Contained the fields “Customer”, “Client”, and “Licensee”
  • Data Source B: “End_Customer” and “Lic_Beneficiary”
  • Data Source C: “Cust-Partner”

Upon examination, each of these fields seemed to contain information that would be relevant to our client’s report, but spot checks revealed different values for a given customer.  Digging into the numbers themselves revealed a whole set of new problems (e.g. “Do I use “Total_Contract_Value” or “Lic_Revenue”, or “Total_USD”?).

To sort all of this out, our client had to send hundreds of emails, make dozens of phone calls, and organize numerous meetings with stakeholders to understand which data she should be using in her report.  She delivered her report in four weeks (three weeks after her commit date).

This scenario certainly isn’t unique – 40% of data professionals spend half their time prepping data.

Despite the time they spend prepping –  Nearly 2/3 of organizations don’t trust the analytics they generate from their business operations.  And the majority of global companies fear that this lack of trust generates risk and alienates customers.

It’s a vicious circle that promises to get more chaotic as you collect more data, launch a new product, acquire a business, or onboard a new partner.

The way out of this mess is to start implementing a formal information governance program.  I know what you’re thinking – more processes, more layers and red tape.  Yay.

It’s not like that – In fact, if you realize that you have  governance problems, you’re probably further along than you think.

It never hurts to talk – if you’re thinking about implementing an information governance process, give us a call.   We’re happy to share our experience and help you map out a plan to tame the chaos.


Earl Stevens – Director of Information Management, Alpine Consulting, Inc.

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