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Credit crunch highlights governance, transparency

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The global crisis in financial markets fuels the trend to improve oversight and control of enterprise information to proactively mitigate risk and prepare for next wave of compliance pressures. Improving processes and reducing costs are the keys to success in any volatile global economy.

While no one can predict the full impact of the mortgage crisis gripping Wall Street and Main Street, one likely outcome is a renewal of the culture of compliance that took root in the wake of Enron's collapse a few years ago.
For many organisations, it means stepped up efforts to improve the management of documents and emails supporting key regulatory processes. Better information governance can help organisations maintain stakeholder trust, improve transparency in a new wave of regulatory scrutiny and uncover new opportunities for cost reductions.
"For large companies, information governance is a major challenge, given the complexity of information systems across many departments, plus a store of electronic content that grows daily," comments Cheryl McKinnon, director of collaborative content management at Open Text. "Companies in many industries have made progress over the last few years to tap into this mountain of information to improve controls. But there's still more to do in corporations and government to establish comprehensive governance strategies, particularly with today's increasingly global, distributed work environment."
According to McKinnon, information governance is even more important, given the likelihood of new regulations in the U.S. and other countries to address the causes of the current financial crisis.
"An information governance strategy prepares your organisation to meet new regulatory rules sooner, because processes and controls are already in place: there is full transparency into how information flows through the organisation."
A governance strategy for content of all types and forms is particularly critical as more organisations adopt new forms of collaboration, Web 2.0 and other tools to help geographically dispersed staff work together without incurring travel or carbon footprint costs.
The right governance strategy helps organisations capture and preserve content from these collaborative applications. This not only helps organisations meet regulatory and discovery rules, it also creates a corporate memory, where critical information on best practices can be preserved for future projects.
Potential disruptive forces in the enterprise will bring this requirement back to the surface in the event that information workers shift jobs, leave the organisation or face merger and acquisition upheavals.
To be successful, organisations must approach information governance as an enterprise-wide endeavour, rather than limit the scope to specific departments. This is critical to ensuring all important information, no matter where it's stored in an organisation, is managed consistently, under the same set of rules.
"You may decide to address information governance requirements in stages over time, but your strategy should be based on a review of people, processes and content across the organisation. Companies that take this approach often expose potential legal or regulatory risks," adds McKinnon.
Integrated records and document management, collaboration, archiving, internal controls, email management, document capture/imaging, and content-centric workflows are the ECM components that form the cornerstone of an information governance strategy. These technologies allow organisations to manage information across its natural business lifecycle, define critical documents or emails that must be managed and preserved according to specific rules, and allow organisations to manage electronic information, hard-copy documents and communication of key policies, procedures and controls within the business.
Organisations can also see cost improvements and efficiencies from an effective information governance strategy.
"With today's global economy and increased competitive pressures, companies have to look hard at every opportunity to lower costs and improve operations," concludes McKinnon. "Information governance also takes into account content from processes such as accounts payable or receivables, where customers can use ECM to improve
processes and reduce costs. Open Text offers ECM solutions that support companies' compliance initiatives, while helping them manage information more efficiently to reduce costs and improve processes."