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Beyond the CIO: Information Governance Professionals Develop New Leadership Role
Posted On June 9, 2015
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Which executive in an organization is in charge of deciding what information it needs to keep and what it needs to destroy? One day soon, Barclay T. Blair hopes the person who comes to mind will be the chief information governance officer (CIGO). Blair is the founder and executive director of the Information Governance Initiative (IGI), which hosted the first CIGO Summit in Chicago from May 20 to 21. Representatives from IG-related fields such as compliance, information security, data governance, analytics, records management, e-discovery, and privacy gathered to discuss how create a role for this new kind of information leader.

“This conference happened based on a single, simple idea, which is that in the vast majority of organizations, nobody owns the volume of information, nobody’s in charge of the information,” says Blair. In most organizations, CIOs are in fact chief infrastructure officers, not chief information officers, he explains. “Their title is actually a lie in that they aren’t responsible for the information; they view the business as being responsible for it because they don’t control the technology and they don’t understand the technology necessarily.” The resulting vacuum accounts for most of the information-related problems in the past 20 years, he says.

The CIGO’s Role

About 6 months ago, the IGI started talking about the idea of the CIGO as a c-level executive who takes responsibility for his or her organization’s information. Implementing the CIGO as an essential part of an organization would give employees a person to turn to when they’re not sure whether to keep a piece of company information. Today, “there’s no clear person that they can take that decision to, and even when they do, the people aren’t clear that they have the authority to make the decision … so they say, ‘I guess we’ll just keep it,’” says Blair. The CIGO would have the authority to make those kinds of decisions for a company so that it can have an effective IG program and not just sit on mounds of useless information.

Additionally, becoming a CIGO could be an avenue for advancement for information management or IG professionals who currently don’t have a way to move up in their organizations. “I think it’s a place where information management professionals can aspire to go and end up in their career,” says Blair.

The specific title of CIGO doesn’t necessarily matter too much, however. Blair notes that CIOs, chief data officers, COOs, or other leaders can take on the duties of a CIGO, as long as the leadership vacuum around IG is filled.

A Successful Summit

The CIGO Summit was so popular that the IGI had to find a bigger room to accommodate everyone at the last minute, says Blair. He was expecting about 50 attendees, but ended up with 80. The summit was invitation-only so that practitioners—people who are working to solve their companies’ IG problems—were the ones who would benefit. They could feel free to talk openly about their problems and relate to others facing similar challenges. Blair says the summit was designed to cater to “a high enough level of seniority, so we looked for people who effectively are playing this role today, even though they don’t have the title, or who are well on their way to playing this role.” Blair also wanted a diverse array of senior leadership roles, including those traditionally associated with IG (e-discovery lawyers, reference managers, and IT workers, etc.) as well as data scientists, privacy and security specialists, and businesspeople.

All seven sessions were held in one room, which was set up with one “U” of tables inside another. Blair says it was a roundtable format, with two screens at the front of the room—one for PowerPoint presentations when needed and the other for the notetaker to capture what participants were saying. The speakers presented from inside the inner “U” to make the sessions as interactive as possible.

The Playbook

The IGI will release The CIGO Playbook—a free compilation of its own notes and preparatory materials for the summit along with the summit proceedings of notes taken live during the sessions—on its website at the end of June. The creation of the playbook drove the conference, Blair says, because he wants it to accomplish two things: to explain in detail what a CIGO is—why it’s a needed role, what the responsibilities would be, what background the CIGO would need, what he or she would be paid, and so on—as a guide for someone who aspires to be in that role; and to show CEOs, hiring committees, or other executive leaders the value of creating this role in their organizations. Each of the seven sessions corresponded with a chapter in the playbook.

Chapter 1: The CIGO Job Description

Prior to the summit, a task force assembled to develop a sample job description for the CIGO of a hypothetical pharmaceutical company. Members included records and information managers, the global head of e-discovery for Walmart, and Amgen’s chief privacy officer, as well as, Blair believes, the world’s first CIGOs, such as JoAnn Stonier (EVP/chief IG and privacy officer at MasterCard Worldwide). They discussed how the CIGO role would differ at various types of companies using a three-level maturity model (e.g., a company on the first level of maturity would need its CIGO to help justify and advocate for the IG program). Another project from the task force was a “day in the life” series of interviews with CIGOs. At the first session, some of the interviewees gave attendees a sense of their day-to-day activities. They compared their jobs with the description the task force had created, and Blair says the general consensus was that, despite differences in protocols and to whom the CIGO would report based on a company’s size, the job description did reflect the typical CIGO role.

Chapter 2: Learning From History—The Evolution of the C-Level Role

Blair says he’s always found it a good strategy to look at the history of an industry in order to learn from its successes and avoid its mistakes. To that end, Eugenia Brumm, who did her Ph.D. dissertation on the history of the CIO, spoke during this session about how the role of the CIO came to be and how it has changed (the CIO role became focused on information-related tools and not the company’s information itself). Attendees then discussed what could be learned from the problems with the CIO role and whether the same problems could happen to the CIGO and how they could be avoided. Attendees also touched on roles similar to a CIGO’s, such as a chief privacy officer, which could possibly evolve into a CIGO. “Somebody told me that was the best or the second best presentation they’d ever heard, and it really got people thinking so it could ground them in the history of IT to try and understand the problem that we’re up against,” says Blair.

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Brandi Scardilli is the editor of NewsBreaks and Information Today.

Email Brandi Scardilli

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