The “business case” for information governance often focuses solely on quantifying specific costs for data management and exposures for data security and ediscovery. Number crunching is of course important, but it misses something bigger, more strategic, and ultimately more crucial to the organization – its brand. Companies, regardless of industry, are fundamentally in the information business. It follows that how an organization manages its information assets reveals how the organization manages itself. And that matters, a lot, because companies that align themselves with their brand, achieving brand discipline, are more successful.
In their seminal 1993 Harvard Business Review article, Customer Intimacy and Other Value Disciplines, Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema made the case for how highly successful companies (1) understand and redefine value for their customers, (2) build “powerful, cohesive business systems” to deliver more of that value than their competitors, and (3) raise their customers’ expectations beyond what the competition can deliver. The most successful companies do this work within at least one of three disciplines: operational excellence, product leadership, or customer intimacy.
Treacy and Wiersema based their insights on an intensive study of 40 companies that achieved breakout success in their markets. They followed the article with their quintessential business strategy book The Discipline of Market Leaders. Twenty years later, this book is likely still on your CEO’s bookshelf.
What’s the point for information governance? It’s this – a successful company brand cannot be lipstick on a pig. It must be organic, a discipline that pervades the organization from the bottom to the top, inward and outward, in its core processes, business structure, management systems, and culture. And how your organization manages information value, cost, compliance, and risk is no exception. Simply put, stronger information governance yields a stronger brand for your business. And this is true for each of the three disciplines of highly successful companies: