It was very interesting to see David Cowen's post - one can easily jump get into a problem solving mode when looking at a complex issue. In a recent discussion around data classification needs for one of our clients, our draft solution seemed have numerous steps. When we had originally started, it had seemed to be a straight forward problem and as we brainstormed, it had started looking a lot more complicated and requiring more research. We recognized this - we deliberately paused at that point and decided to come back the next day to take a fresh look. After some time to re-think, we were able to identify and eliminate unnecessary complexity we had introduced in our initial think-through. The eventual solution we ended up with was a much simpler and more elegant solution.
Simplification requires discipline and clarity of thought. However, in today's rapid paced work environment, this is not easy as we don't slow down to fully think about things. We have invited a few colleagues in the data and information governance space to share their strategies and approach for simplification. This area can be made as complex as we want and we often end up doing so. We hope the perspectives shared here can help us embrace simplification fully.
The first post is by Lynn Molfetta on how complex process can be simplified by breaking it down to well defined smaller chunks.
Break down into simple parts to reduce complexity
Information Governance Expert
Many IG projects (sometimes even an entire IG “Program” or function!) are initiated when senior management realizes that a specific “issue” requires an urgent and vigorous response. The issue could be an audit finding, a regulatory enforcement action, the advent of new regulations, or an enterprise cost strategy, to name just a few.
For the business leader or project manager charged with sponsoring or leading the project, it’s hard to balance gaining the support of senior management (that we always hear is vital to success) with gaining agreement on what to do and how to do it. How do you overcome the governance delays of “it’s too big a task and we need multiple stakeholders’ input” while mitigating the execution risk that comes with “we’ve just got to get started on this project”?
As with governance of any large project, the answer is to break it down into comprehensible components, that can be quickly grasped by, and gain approval from, individuals with limited knowledge and time to apply the issues. Start by addressing three critical issues that can derail the long-term success of an IG project but if established properly can enable projects to “get started” and create the early wins that build credibility and momentum.
First, ambiguity as to the critical objective. Is it risk mitigation, cost reduction, or a business opportunity?
Second, a lack of insight as to where to focus efforts. What are the time frames and data priorities that will most effectively achieve the critical objective? Should the time frame focus be to “stop the bleeding” going forward or remediate legacy systems? Should the data priority be determined by risk, business-unit, region, data store, data type?
Third, a tendency (especially for senior management!) to assume that what is missing is one component of the operating model (people, governance, process, technology), and thus make the urgent development of that “solution” the critical activity, e.g., a new policy “framework”, or a new enterprise IT solution.
Obviously, establishing these high-level parameters will require doing some background work first: understanding the concerns of senior management and making some meaningful assessment of the organization’s current state. But, the time and place to discover and agree the initial objectives and activities – to get the program quickly underway – is not in a program steering committee or a presentation to senior management.
“Measure twice; cut once”…and get going.
Lynn Molfetta has led process development and restructuring, global rollout of IT solutions, and the operationalization of Information Governance programs. Over the course of her career, she has been the Global Head of Records Management at two of the largest global banks, and the COO/Chief of Staff for the General Counsel of a global financial services company.
In the second post, Brett Tarr shares an example of how complex process can be simplified by removing the steps involved and focusing on the core problem.
Reduce complexity by removing unnecessary steps
Information Governance Expert
Problem: As employees leave an organization, they leave behind a mass of information, contacts, and calendar items that can impact business continuity. The existing process for managing this information was reactive, required multiple layers of approval from different business units, and lacked standardization.
Solution: Centralize responsibility within HR, empower them to make decisions without requiring additional approvals in the vast majority of situations, create a simple form that is issued to the manager of a departing/departed employee right at the point of separation that proactively anticipates the need for this information and provides easy action items to direct information to the appropriate recipients while standardizing the process to ensure consistency and minimize risk.
Brett Tarr is an attorney and technologist helping organizations address complex data challenges, mitigate risk, and build sustainable legal processes.