02: Why a CIGO?


It is clear to those in the Information Governance (IG) community that the CIGO role is necessary. For those who have not worked in the world of IG, it is critical to explain why CIGOs are needed if organizations are going to be expected to spend time, money, and other resources on the creation of a new C-level position. To be clear, the CIGO is contemplated as a new role, not the mere rebranding of an existing one.

Don’t We Already Have This Covered?

In the 1980s, the role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) was created. Like the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) role from the 1970s, the CIO was designed to bring a strategic focus to an area of growing importance, information technology (IT).

Initial CIO goals centered on the automation financial and accounting processes using new database technologies. As more technology entered the workplace, this technology was given to the executive who had experience with computers, the CIO. Over the time the CIO went from leveraging new technology to improve how business worked to becoming the custodian of all technology. CIOs got bogged down in making sure organizations had reliable systems and didn’t have time to pay attention to the information itself.

The CIO became focused on simply supply basic computer services to the business. Time pressure increased, which led to a high failure rate of IT projects. This in turn has increased the pressure to deliver and the cycle has become self-perpetuating. The CIO community knows that they need to evolve from being the Chief Infrastructure Officer to a Chief Innovation Officer but the transformation has to occur while still supporting aging mission-critical systems.

The road of a CIO has been a tough one. It is important that in the creation of the CIGO role that the goal and purpose be well defined so that the problem that is meant to be solve, the governance of information, is met.

The Gaps Filled By The CIGO

There are three primary “gaps” within the typical information-related functions that the CIGO role would fill:

  1. Information-Focused Leadership
  2. Organization-Wide Information Coordination
  3. Balancer of Information Value and Risk

1. An Information-Focused Leader

At most organizations nobody owns the information problem, at least not in the same way that the CIO owns infrastructure or the CISO owns information security. A leadership role responsible for the information itself (both structured and unstructured) is missing. The CIGO fills that gap. The CIGO leads the “facets” [2] of IG that are generally focused on the information itself; would address any gaps created by underdeveloped and missing facets either directly or through the creation of subordinate positions and delegation as deemed appropriate; and would have responsibility, generally, over all functions focused on determining what the information is and what should be done with it (e.g. identification, classification, disposition, etc.).

Addressing and understanding the information itself is critical. Though each organization undoubtedly understands some of its information (and maybe even pretty well in specific instances), vast amounts of information continue to accumulate and remain unassessed or “dark.” Understanding what your information is converts an undifferentiated mass into something useable and actionable. The CIGO leads the efforts to do just that.

2. An Organization-Wide Information Coordinator

The CIGO fills a coordinating role for all information-related functions at an organization. A commonly reported problem is that these facets often act insolation of one another (sometimes called “siloing”). To the extent that there is coordination, it is often haphazard, incidental, and not maximized. Because a given piece of information is likely to be important or have a role in various parts of an organization, this lack of coordination can be a severe impediment to the effective use of an organization’s information.

Consider a lab notebook at a drug company. That single document might be subject to a legal hold, could raise compliance, privacy, and information security issues, and is likely also viewed as IP, for example. Making sure that each relevant facet has appropriate access to it, in a useable format, at the right time, and also knows what it can or should do with it requires coordination of decisions related to that piece of information. The CIGO would fill the existing void and serve a coordinating role for the facets of IG across the entire organization as well as between the facets at their points of intersection.

3. A Balancer of Information Risk and Value

Information is a business asset, and like any business asset (e.g. financial, physical plant, equipment, etc.) it has both a risk and value side. Most organizations have barely begun to think of their information in this way (i.e., information as an asset). To the extent that they have, there is no one specifically tasked with balancing and prioritizing their interests in information risk and value. The CIGO would fill this gap and help an organization develop and implement an appropriately tailored approach to balancing and prioritizing the organization’s interests in the risk and value sides of its information.

The idea of striking the right balance and addressing both risk and value is critical. To be effective the CIGO cannot just be risk-focused. The value side must be addressed. The CIGO also needs to tie information and its effective governance to the business strategy. The “right” approach to balancing and prioritizing these interests requires meeting the specific needs and goals of the organization itself. The CIGO would be responsible for developing and implementing an approach tailored to the specific organization.

Why the C-Suite?

Information governance is a challenge that spans the entire organization. There is overlapping information existing in finance, operations, marketing, and sales with compliance requirements flowing from the General Counsel’s office and managed by technology managed by IT. The need to take all of the information and make it available as a resource runs throughout the organization with every team scrambling to be in the front of the line for improved solutions.

The only way to bring all those interests together is a leader with a single vision of how information governance operates in the business tied to the organization’s mission. As a C-Suite executive, the CIGO will be that leader providing direction and solving problems.

The vision, expressed in a roadmap, is built upon the values of the organization and the CIGO. It is clear enough for any person in the organization to see and understand the value of a successful IG program. Using this vision, the CIGO can engage the other executives in the organization and make real progress.

Simply being operational and checking the boxes is not going to get the job done. Proactive steps are going to have to be taken for a CIGO to be successful and that means leading the way, not waiting for permission to act. Taking what the CEO wants to accomplish and showing them how the CIGO can get them there will go far towards making IG a successful contributor to the business.

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This publication is possible through the generous help of the leading providers of information governance products and services that are Supporters of the Information Governance Initiative.

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