What IG Metrics Should You Track?

By Nick Inglis

As we all know, each Information Governance (IG) program is different; and the metrics each organization tracks for it might differ depending on the industry, the company culture, and other factors.

Despite these variations, there are common areas for metrics that IG professionals should consider.

Metrics have been an ongoing challenge in the IG space since its’ inception. My past research showed that under 15% of IG programs track metrics that IG practitioners consider “meaningful.”

One approach to metrics that I’ve shared since first hearing it from him in 2016 is Seth Maislin’s “Stealthy Governance” approach. If you’re unfamiliar, his philosophy is essentially this: most people in your organization don’t care about Information Governance, so place your focus on key stakeholders and manage your IG program in the background with minimal disruption. I’ll quote Maislin on this point, “Governance is not an activity, it’s an approach… for all activities.”

Narrow the Metrics Scope

In placing our focus on key stakeholders, we eliminate many of the metrics points typically utilized and instead narrow our scope to only the metrics that are meaningful to the core.

According to Maislin, instead of starting with the typical set of metrics, first look at the stakeholders. In his stakeholder evaluation, Maislin uses a RACI chart and guides that we should “include everyone who needs to be involved, but not one person more or less.” He uses his RACI chart to inform his approach to various stakeholders (Accountable, Consulted, Informed, Responsible, Supports) and states that when we “do this correctly, engagement becomes a useful metric”:

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Image courtesy of Seth Maislin/Earley Information Sciences

Maislin then uses a list of potential metrics in critical areas to select a handful for tracking, depending on the organization’s specificities. He breaks down his possible metrics into six key ‘health’ indicator categories: organizational health, people health, process health, taxonomy scope, technology health, and compliance health & risk.

Maislin measures and tracks IG program success through various metrics representative of those critical areas through these six key areas. Which specific metrics are selected are dependent on organizational need and fit.

Choose Metrics that Indicate Health

In “organizational health“, Maislin cites steward representation, expenditures and saving, projects (approved, ongoing, backlog), and policies established. This category has many approaches for measurement; the goal is to select the metrics criteria that most align with your organizational needs — from tracking the number of stewards represented within the IG program through to the number of policies established over time — all valid measurements aimed at understanding organizational health. 

In the realm of “people health” as described by Maislin, we can track headcount, specialization breadth and coverage, education (training completed, training written/created), or participant opinion. Again, a wide range of options. In Maislin’s model, he also tracks “process health” as represented by the potential metrics areas like process efficiency, decision-making efficiency, and escalation frequency and efficiency.

For “taxonomy scope“, Maislin offers the suggested metrics of size and scope of taxonomy, clear ownership coverage, and taxonomy conflicts needing reconciliation. In the realm of “technology health“, Maislin suggests percent integration with taxonomy (systems leveraging common taxonomy), term synchronization health, and presence of unique identifiers (which could be tracked as a percentage as well).

Lastly in Maislin’s model is “compliance health and risk“, where he suggests audits completed (and pass/fail), number of known issues, or number of negative incidents.

In each of these areas, Maislin states that the goal is to use metrics that people can “geek out” about and leave the superfluous to themselves. In Maislin’s view, it doesn’t matter whether the results on any one metric are good or bad, as the goal of early metrics tracking is to provide meaningful results that stakeholders can rally behind.

I like Seth Maislin’s take on metrics tracking — if you’d like to learn more about his approach to metrics, his session at the Information Governance Conference 2016, where I originally heard the concept, is available online here.

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