Return on Investment: Selling the Benefits of Information Governance

Robin Woolen

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The biggest obstacle to maintaining and improving the information governance program in any organization is justifying the return on investment (ROI) at budget time. Like it or not, organizations run on metrics. Gathering the cost metrics and establishing milestones early in the process is the key to showing that your program matters to the organization.

The most readily accessible metrics to make a business case are storage costs and the time it takes to find what you need. Here are questions that get to the metrics you need in order to make your case:

Storage Costs
1. What are the total hardware costs of the organization’s data infrastructure?
2. What are the average maintenance costs associated with the organization’s data infrastructure?
3. What is the square footage cost associated with the organization’s hard copy storage?
4. What is the expected growth of the organization’s total storage requirements?

Search and Retrieval
1. What are the service level agreements (SLAs) related to information retrieval?
2. What are the staffing costs associated with the organization’s information governance program?

Litigation Support
If litigation is a regular part of the business, it is important to understand any costs associated with the eDiscovery process.
1. What are the average costs associated with the searching and retrieval of information?
2. What are the average costs associated with maintaining a legal hold?
3. What are the average costs associated with using outside counsel in a matter?
4. What is the average number of legal matters annually?

Once you have these numbers, the standards that remain constant in the information governance field to build a business case are:

1. Only a small percentage of the information produced within any organization is valuable enough to be maintained and protected. Redundant, obsolete and trivial (ROT) information can be a real issue for many organizations. Data duplication is a very common reason for storage cost overruns. Many people maintain their own secret stash of reference material that could easily be shared with their coworkers. How much money would be saved if you reduce storage by just 20%?

2. Another standard is that the average employee, regardless of organization, will generally spend a third of their workday searching for information. When you are talking about eDiscovery in a legal matter, this is even more critical, as lawyers are involved. While it might be considered a soft cost, how much time can be saved if you could organize and reduce the amount of information the staff searches through, particularly in a legal matter?

These are some of the metrics used to show the return on investment for a business case meant to improve an organization’s information governance program. There may be other metrics that are more meaningful to your organization, but when making the value proposition for your project, the key is to gather those factors in order to quantify them. The more you focus on hard dollars, the better positioned your business case will be to demonstrate there is a substantial ROI for information governance.

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