CobbleStone Software offers six critical contract management tools for 2021.

2021 has arrived, and with it comes new innovations to your contract management software processes.  Keeping this in mind, we have outlined six critical contract management tools that your organization should equip itself with to stay ahead of future-minded contract management best practices in 2021 and beyond.

#1 – Complete Contract Lifecycle Management

No organization should navigate the evolving landscape of contract management with disorganized and ununified contract lifecycle management.  Your organization needs to step into 2021 with a game-changing solution that saves time, reduces costs, increases revenue, and provides a scalable, low-friction, and efficient contract administration process for oversight of the the full contract lifecycle.

Leading contract lifecycle management software solutions support your organization with a user-friendly interface for the entire contract lifecycle – including:

  • an automated contract request process.
  • easy contract writing that features streamlined merging of contracts with templates from your organization’s pre-approved clause library.
  • a centralized process for contract negotiation, contract collaboration, contract review, and contract approval routing.
  • unified contract analytics and contract data tracking.
  • automated key date alerts and notifications.
  • comprehensive risk management, risk mitigation, and risk analysis.
  • straightforward process configuration and tracking for specific contract types for a myriad of industries.
  • integrated RFx management (including RFPs).
  • simple searching and reporting – which can include an ad hoc and custom report designer.
  • & more.

Make Your Case for Contract Lifecycle Management

Trusted CLM software platforms support automated, intelligent contract workflow to expedite the contract lifecycle from requests to potential renewal opportunities.  Save time, maintain compliance, reduce costs, and lower friction with credible contract lifecycle management software.

#2 – A Secure Contract Repository

Successful contract management in 2021 relies heavily on your organization’s ability to embrace centralized processes across the board.  This is why you must leave manual methods for storing contracts – such as those involving filing cabinets for paper documentation, spreadsheets, emails, and disorganized digital storage – in the past.  Those procedures make it nearly impossible for your organization to maintain version control, keep contracts secure, stay on top of key dates and milestones, or enforce contract archiving and retention rules.

Your organization can get ahead in 2021 with a secure contract repository system that helps store contracts while continuing to get the most use out of them.  A web-enabled document repository allows contracts to be safely stored, and your organization’s contract management professionals can organize contracts, oversee permissions, enforce document version control, track contract status, search for existing contracts, collaborate, and much more.

Throughout the progression of the contract lifecycle, confidential information is stored and tracked within a contract management software platform.  Your organization must be able to place access restrictions on PII, PCI, and other sensitive data.

For instance, your organization’s software end-users may not have any need to edit contracts other than those they’ve drafted themselves.  With a permissions-based process, your organization can easily prevent instances of sensitive data being accessed by unauthorized personnel.

A secure online repository can help your organization by:

  • safeguarding the organization, location, protection, sharing, and searching of contracts.
  • improving accountability.
  • centralizing control.
  • increasing productivity.
  • streamlining contract management.

Equip yourself with the centralized repository system that your organization needs to excel in 2021 with leading-edge contract management software.

Make your case for contract management software. Download your guide now.

#3 – Contract Intelligence: Risk Mitigation & Clause Recognition

Intelligent contract clause identification and extraction can promote continued machine learning – which allows your organization to enter 2021 with a process that continuously improves.  AI-powered contract intelligence allows your users to locate standard clauses within a document when it is added to contract management software.  Clause text found can be added to your organization’s training data for continuous machine learning – endlessly enhancing future clause recognition!

Your organization can leverage contract management AI to pinpoint potential risk.  Leading contract intelligence can analyze text from a newly introduced document and identify “good or bad” contract language – according to a pre-configured, rules-based sentiment.  An integrated artificial intelligence engine for contracts can also detect sensitive data, run statistical data analysis, and give helpful risk mitigation recommendations based on real-time data.

#4 – Contract Intelligence: Data Identification & Data Extraction

With the help of AI-powered contract management software, your organization’s contract processes are automated and streamlined.  Your organization can put its trust in a proven system for analyzing contracts and transforming static, stagnant documents into dynamic, success-driving building blocks for enhanced contract oversight, proactive opportunity identification, and risk mitigation.  Built-in contract AI powered by machine learning can help your organization to get the most out of its contracts.  Watch the video below to learn more.

 

Your organization can take advantage of automated data entry capabilities that save time and resources when new contracts are added to the system.  Your organization can identify critical data such as key dates and milestones, clauses, counterparty information, locations, emails, phone numbers, financial information, and more – thus eliminating the need for monotonous, time wasting, and error-prone manual data field entry.

#5 – Robust Compliance Management

Your organization can utilize advanced compliance auditing and reporting to gain better visibility into relationships between contracts across business entities.  Legal, regulatory, and other compliance standards and important obligations can be adhered to with user-friendly and robust reporting tools, key dates, contract analytics, renewals, and alerts.  As such, collaboration for expedited compliance and renewals is made easy and fast.

Seamless OFAC search – integrated with the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control – further improves compliance management, giving your organization the best tools for managing vendor, company, and employee compliance.  After entity data is run through an initial check against the data within OFAC’s database, subsequent checks can be configured to run on a recurring, scheduled basis to ensure that OFAC data compliance is upheld.  Furthermore, visually engaging risk analysis snapshots about vendors, employees, and companies can be provided to your users – enhancing data analytics.

CobbleStone Software offers OFAC search snapshots at a glance.

Utilize winning compliance tools for better compliance reporting, contract analytics, and stakeholder relationships.

#6 – Rapid, Integrated Electronic Signatures

Electronic signatures integrated with contract management software can assist your organization in transitioning from negotiations to signatures quickly – as you navigate the demands of the evolving landscape of 2021 and beyond.

A rapid signing process for fully electronic signatures and electronic approval collaboration can reduce send-to-sign time by up to twenty percent.  Your organization can send documents out for signing immediately after contract negotiations are completed.  Reliable contract management software platforms provide a unified online repository within a centralized online portal for the comprehensive management of partially or fully executed electronic signatures.

Manual methods for new agreements, bulk HR documents, amendments, addendums, policy updates, and more can be left in the past – thanks to leading functionality that lets you send virtually unlimited documents out for bulk signatures.  Sending documents is easy, and stakeholders have the ability to sign from virtually anywhere at anytime.  Signatories can be provided with emails that bring them to relevant signing portals without the need for downloading a software system.  View the video below to discover CobbleStone Software’s electronic signature software – IntelliSign®.

 

When cutting-edge contract management software solutions are integrated with robust eSignatures, signing collaboration and approvals are rapid, efficient, and cohesive.

Leap Into 2021 with Contract Insight®

The six tools that we have mentioned above can positively revolutionize how your organization manages contracts.  With full contract lifecycle management, a secure contract repository, industry-defining contract intelligence, ironclad compliance management, and quick and easy electronic signatures, CobbleStone’s acclaimed contract management software suite has everything you need to jump into 2021 with confidence.  Watch the video below to discover better contract management with CobbleStone!

 

Learn how to become the future-minded contract management all star of tomorrow – today!  Book a free demo now.

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For many small- and mid-sized businesses (SMBs), hiring a full-time head of marketing or Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is unappealing and simply out of reach.

Many SMBs experiment with hiring a junior level marketing staffer, only to be disappointed by their limited expertise, industry contacts, and pool of resources. These staffers rarely have the experience or vision to provide strategy and results.

Enter the fractional CMO.

READ MORE


CobbleStone offers helpful legal contract management software tools for 2021.

As 2021 draws ever nearer, the truth remains that general counsel and paralegals continue to encounter growing contract complexity and volume.  An ineffectual legal contract management process makes obstacles for legal departments tough to overcome.  Here’s how to leverage seven legal contract management software tools for a streamlined legal contract lifecycle, reduced risk, and minimal contract lifecycle bottlenecks and delays.

#1 – Easy Contract Requests & Approvals Interface

Leading legal contract management software enables users to enter legal requests and submit them for request approval easily.  Data entry for request records is significantly simplified.  Communication bottlenecks are reduced with easy-to-use request intake forms that allow users to collect, store, review, and approve automated requests.

Additionally, teams can remain in sync with approval routing to legal workflows for the main areas of the software.  Users can attach virtually unlimited files, and convert contract requests to contract records without data loss or the need for data re-entry.  Legal teams are held accountable with integrated document tracking, task assignments, and nearly unlimited notifications.

Optimize contract requests with a unified, standardized process that equips vendors, customers, suppliers, providers, and employees with the ability to request new contracts easily.

#2 – Automated Document Assembly

Trusted legal document assembly solutions can help organizations to author timely, compliant, and accurate contracts.  Using automation to dynamically merge data fields with clauses from a pre-approved clause library, legal teams can manage multiple templates and document versions for rapid contract authoring and exportation into standard file formats.  Document templates can be repeatedly used and easily updated.

Please read our blog on contract writing to garner a fuller understanding of legal contract authoring with automation.

Make Your Case for Contract Lifecycle Management

#3 – Contract Negotiation Automation

General Counsel, paralegals, and other legal contract stakeholders no longer need to rely upon a contract negotiations process that depends on redlining and back-and-forth communication.

With contract negotiation automation proffered by robust legal contract management software solutions, document collaboration and document version control are simplified with numbered version tracking and a detailed log of document iterations.  Collaborative parties can maintain version control with the capability to upload and download up-to-date document versions with ease.

Clause ownership functionality makes it so that organizations can assign clause owners.  If a party attempts to edit a clause, advanced contract management software can add that clause’s owner to the approval process.  Consequently, only necessary parties are added to the negotiation process, as per rules-based clause ownership.

Contract negotiations between internal negotiating parties, external parties, and employee non-users of software are more efficient when organizations are equipped to configure a rules-based process.  A pre-configured workflow permits contract stakeholders to receive a notification that takes them to a contract collaboration portal.  There, relevant documents can be accessed for review.  A benefit of this process is that external parties and employees without contract management software access can view and edit contracts that are assigned to them but cannot access core system features and contracts that are not pertinent to them.  Documents that are needed are isolated so that stakeholders can view or make changes right from the portal.  Furthermore, contract parties can engage in approval collaboration in a centralized location and receive alerts about the approval process – in the interest of reducing delays.

With an advantageous contract negotiation portal, legal contract collaboration is efficient and straightforward.

#4 – Obligations Workflow

Diligent observance of contract obligation fulfillment is critical for healthy contract lifecycles.  Contract workflow automation that leverages automated alerts, notifications, task escalation, and approval routing helps organizations to meet their contractual needs and focus their attention on more strategic aspects of contract management – such as opportunity realization and data analytics.

Obligations workflow can be configured within legal contract management software to trigger when specific criteria are met, before contract execution, after contract execution, or both.  Flexible obligations management promotes a culture where the proper alerts, notifications, and approvals are set in place for contracts at the right time.

#5 – Compliance & Auditing Tools

Advanced compliance reporting and auditing tools give legal teams visibility into contractual relationships across entities and businesses.  Legal compliance standards can be easily maintained with robust and user-friendly reporting metrics, key dates, and renewals.

Leading-edge legal contract management software also offers integration with OFAC search data.  This helpful compliance tool checks vendor, company, and employee data and compares it to data within OFAC’s (The Office of Foreign Assets Control) sanctions lists – providing crucial risk analysis snapshots.

#6 – Legal Contract Management Reports

Ad-hoc reports equip organizations with reports on upcoming tasks, user-defined status reports, reports on financial commitments, and more.  Reports can be emailed on a scheduled basis or swiftly exported to spreadsheets to save locally and distribute.

With an online report designer, general counsel and paralegals can use contract management software to establish easily configured and flexible report layouts to display critical contract information.  These report designers include many file exportation options, such as PDF, MS Word, spreadsheets, various image formats, rich text, CSV, and more!

Executive graphical dashboards deliver a comprehensive overview of key dates, activities, and contract performance.

With the help of advanced financials tracking, improved searching, and reporting tools, legal teams can track payments, spending, and contract data changes.

#7 – AI-Powered Risk Management

Fastidious risk management is paramount for successful legal contract management.  AI-based contract management software makes risk assessment, analysis, and mitigation more manageable and efficient.

A risk score can keep your legal contract management team accountable by equipping them with an outline of how well (or how poorly) they are leveraging their risk tools.  From there, they can act accordingly to establish the best possible risk management process.

Watch the VISDOM® AI video.

Advanced legal contract management software also provides risk rating and risk mapping features.  Risk profile ratings can help legal teams to visualize risk.  Based on tracked risk, users are provided with a risk assessment matrix.  They can view risk probability patterns for events that may occur within contracts, as well as risk exposure that results from those events.

Awareness of potentially detrimental risk events can help general counsel and paralegals to decide how to move forward with a contract.  Risk visualization can help teams make risk management decisions more efficiently and more effectually.

Experience Next-Level Legal Contract Management!

Now you know the cutting-edge legal contract management software tools that can help general counsel and paralegals to implement a workflow process that mitigates risk, reduces bottlenecks, and helps organizations to manage a growing number of increasingly complex contracts for enhanced legal operations.  Therefore, it is time to select the legal contract management software solution that best fits your organization’s needs.  That solution is CobbleStone Software’s Contract Insight®.

Contract Insight has the tools to help your organization manage the entire legal contract lifecycle.  For over 25 years, CobbleStone Software’s legal contract management suite has been lauded and trusted by General Counsel and legal departments.  With the help of end-to-end document assembly, legal workflow management, fast implementation, and an easy-to-adopt user interface, CobbleStone Software is the go-to solution for the effective management of contracts and committals.

Stop wasting time and money on disorganized legal contract lifecycle management.  Start centralizing documents, streamlining compliance and approvals, increasing your ROI, and more with Contract Insight.

Enjoy a free demo of CobbleStone’s acclaimed contract management software platform today!

This article was previously published on CobbleStone Software’s blog.


OBJECTIVE

BuzzFeed uses the collaboration platform Slack to augment email and its other modes of internal communication. As a result, its legal and IT teams wanted to ensure they were prepared to identify, review, and produce Slack data in response to ediscovery matters and investigations. BuzzFeed needed a tool that could efficiently locate, preserve, and export that data in a review-ready format.

 

KEY ISSUES

  • Quickly and easily search through Slack users and channels to identify relevant information
  • Seamlessly export that information in a reviewable format
  • Confidently state that all relevant data had been identified and considered—demonstrating defensible processes

 

APPROACH

Thanks to Hanzo Hold, BuzzFeed’s legal and IT teams have a tool that they can use to locate all relevant information within their organization’s Slack application in response to any ediscovery or investigation request. Moreover, they can produce that data to outside counsel for further review.

Read the case study to see how BuzzFeed attains greater efficiency and confidence using Hanzo Hold to manage its Slack data for ediscovery.


Onna Blog: What is Information Governance and Why Is It So Important?

Every digital interaction between businesses and their customers leaves an auditable trail of data. Sometimes, data is highly sensitive and needs security, privacy, and discovery controls in place. Other times, data has no value and is simply taking up space. Telling the difference between these types of data and knowing where it all lives is one of the biggest challenges organizations face today.

The truth is an overwhelming amount of data is ungoverned making it difficult to know what is of value and what is not. Not only does this mean that sensitive data could be compromised, but also that potentially useful data remains underutilized. Having a robust information governance plan is the solution to these problems. Let’s get into what it is and why it’s important.

What is information governance?

Information governance is defined in a lot of different ways, but at its core, it refers to a strategic framework for managing information at an organizational level. Although we typically refer to information governance in a digital context, it also incorporates physical assets, such as devices and printed documents. This is especially true in the case of more mature organizations, which often have large amounts of information stored locally, in printed or digital form.

There are many regional and international standards for managing information at scale, and the regulatory compliance landscape is evolving every year. However, the core concepts of information governance have largely remained the same. These include security and privacy, integrity and authenticity, information lifecycle management, and business continuity. But information governance is more than just a legal and ethical obligation. Establishing a robust and adaptable framework can help organizations derive greater value out of their information and drive smarter, more informed decision-making.

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Why is information governance important?

Data overload is real, and it’s one of the biggest challenges facing today’s organizations. Our collective digital activities have now generated almost 60 zettabytes of data, a figure that’s expected to reach 149 over the next four years. In small businesses, data typically exists in the dozens of terabytes, while many larger enterprises have already reached the petabyte scale. These amounts are expected to only increase over the years to come.

Today’s organizations have the monumental task ahead of minimizing risk and maximizing value across increasingly vast data sets. While business leaders usually recognize the fact that their data is valuable, the overwhelming majority of their digital assets are underutilized and inadequately governed and protected. This isn’t helped by the fact that the average enterprise now uses 1,295 different cloud services, each one leaving a trail of data across a complex array of networks and systems.

The difference between information management and information governance

You might have heard the terms information management and information governance used interchangeably, but they’re actually two different tiers of scale. Information management is a subset of the broader information governance framework, which incorporates the capture, classification, storage, distribution, and preservation of information assets. It’s largely reactive in that it encompasses responding to information requests, such as data subject access requests (DSARs) under GDPR and CCPA regulations. It also includes the secure disposal of obsolete data as required by internal company policies and regulatory compliance.

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Information governance has a much broader scope, and what it encompasses varies from one organization to the next. For the most part, it refers to a company’s internal policies and processes for optimizing information management in line with business goals. For example, this might mean reducing operational costs, deriving insights from big data, or even deploying machine-learning algorithms for automated management and governance. In other words, IG goes beyond the systematic management of records and information to incorporate a wide-ranging approach to supporting an organization’s objectives, policies, and standards.

Information governance as an evolving discipline and a driver of innovation

Some business leaders think of information governance purely as a legal requirement. But it’s not all about building a legally defensible program for managing sensitive information. IG is a fast-evolving discipline, which has become a critical business routine in today’s data-heavy age. There’s now a constant need to re-assess IG in line with the advancement of enterprise technology. It’s not a strategy that’s implemented once and then left to run its course – it’s a journey rather than a destination. In fact, the same can be said of IG’s overarching discipline, which is digital transformation.

Without an adaptable IG strategy, it’s impossible for an organization to innovate without adding risk. Fast-changing enterprise technology landscapes, paired with a rapidly accelerating datasphere, mean that there are new risks and opportunities alike. These both need to be managed at a massive scale in an age when enterprises have their information assets stored across a multitude of cloud-hosted apps and online storage facilities, employee- and business-owned mobile devices, and in-house desktops and servers. Factor in the rise of the internet of things (IoT), and there’s no denying the massive scope and scale of today’s information governance requirements.

Implementing robust information governance policies and processes gives today’s companies the opportunity to innovate without increasing risk. For example, let’s say you’re rolling out a new employee communication platform that will enhance productivity among remote workers:

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Overcoming the challenges of scale across business roles

Before any organization embarks on an overhaul of their information governance policies and procedures, it’s important to consider the challenges first. These can include:

  • The complexity and diversity of today’s enterprise technology stacks
  • The rapid proliferation of data across all business roles and departments
  • The new and emerging data privacy regulations at local, state, federal, and global levels
  • The need to derive real-time insights from data to maintain competitive advantage

The above responsibilities apply in almost every business role and department. In enterprise environments, matters become exponentially more complex, especially when factoring in the rise of remote teams and multiple branches. Different departments use a wide range of cloud services. For example, marketing teams use on average 120 different services, while HR use around 100, and finance uses 51, according to one recent study. Since each of these services collects and stores information in a unique way, information governance must apply in every area of the organization.

Information Governance no longer belongs exclusively to legal, compliance, and information security teams. It’s everyone’s responsibility. IG professionals need visibility across the full range of information-based services. Business leaders need to maintain complete audit trails of where their data lives and which controls are in place to protect it.

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Since information governance involves every business-critical role, today’s enterprises need a single, secure, and centralized way to access and manage their entire technology stack and all the data that comes with it. It’s about simplifying large and complex technology environments by bringing everything together under a unified management system where it’s possible to apply and enforce their policies. Maintaining a centralized data repository helps enterprises leverage the information available to them in new and intuitive ways.

6 information governance initiatives every business leader should follow

As one of the integral disciplines of digital transformation, information governance strategies have the potential to drive innovation and empower exponential growth. However, like every business transformation program, there are certain rules and standards to abide by and pitfalls to avoid. Here are our top recommendations to help you supercharge information governance in your organization:

1. Identify an executive-level sponsor

Every business transformation program requires support from leadership. If your information governance initiative doesn’t have someone driving it, it will be far less likely to succeed. Larger companies should establish an IG board or committee that maintains strong links throughout the company and engages leaders across the full range of business roles. Recruiting an engaged sponsor who understands the language of business, and not just the language of compliance and IT, will greatly increase the chances of any changes being accepted.

2. Take an org-wide approach

Many organizations view information governance as nothing but an IT project, but it really takes cooperation from the entire organization. Anywhere data lives, and anyone who touches it needs to be on board for your IG strategy to be successful. Communicating what your IG strategy can bring to different business roles and how they can improve them is paramount to getting participation from all sides of the organization. Eventually, you want your strategy to be integrated with wider corporate culture and become central to everything you do, but first, you must demonstrate value and get buy-in.

3. Educate employees on an ongoing basis

The same way you need to get buy-in from you’re organization, you need to ensure people understand and follow IG company policies. To ensure employees comply with legal, security, and privacy obligations, a suitable training and development program is vital. Education should be an ongoing process, not just a one and done presentation or seminar. By keeping education alive through a cadence, you ensure nothing slips through the cracks. To see policies ingrained in employees’ day-to-day lives, it’s also important to demonstrate the true value of your policies. Whether that means increasing efficiency or making more data-driven decisions, strong information governance can change the way everyone works for the better.

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4. Understand your information lifecycle

Information doesn’t have an inherent lifespan, but it does need to have a predefined lifecycle from the moment it’s first collected to the moment it’s archived or securely disposed of. How long information spends in each stage of the lifecycle and why will vary enormously depending on its content, type, and industry. You should always start by addressing legal factors like privacy regulations to inform what your information lifecycle should look like. After you’ve addressed more pressing legal obligations and business priorities, you can move into standard lifecycle processes that affect the organization at large and document how information should be collected, stored, processed, archived, and disposed of.

5. Choose the right tools and solutions

Due to the challenges of scale brought on by the explosion of data and the increasing range of devices and software used, it’s impossible to achieve full oversight using manual means alone. Every organization needs a powerful, automated approach to managing data throughout every stage of its existence. In enterprise environments, processes that require automation include the application of retention policies, archival, and classification. The main goal should be to implement a platform that brings all your apps and data together under a centrally managed system. Ideally, your IG strategy should adapt seamlessly to evolving technology and corporate environments. An IG initiative that can’t scale and adapt to the future will only end up stifling innovation.

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6.  Incorporate data-driven decision-making

Big data refers to data sets that are beyond human capabilities to make sense of. But big data also presents a wealth of opportunity for businesses to derive valuable insights into their internal operations, customers, supply chains, and more. By centralizing otherwise fragmented and underutilized data from your wider technology environment, you can stay ahead of the curve with informed, real-time decision-making. IG plays a crucial role in making data readily available to authorized parties and enabling them to access and use it in ways that add value throughout the organization.

Curious how Onna can unify your information governance processes? Our Knowledge Integration Platform brings your data together to simplify governance, privacy, compliance, and eDiscovery. Find out more here.


Onna Blog: Unified Information Governance: Reconciling Conflicts Between Stakeholders

Information governance is a critical discipline that encompasses many parts of the business. Compliance, security, legal, and IT all have an important stake in managing information; however, when it comes to handling that information, conflict can arise. Priorities may differ when it comes to data retention, archival, and deletion, leading to difficult decision-making. Add in the pressures of data privacy laws, like GDPR and CCPA, and the perils of disunity only intensify.

So what does the decision-making process look like when legal wants to retain data but IT wants to delete it — both with valid reasons? How can organizations avoid spending on outside counsel to weigh-in on internal decisions? If these questions resonate with you, it might be time to take a hard look at what information governance means in your organization. More likely than not, you are taking a siloed approach to information management that has your people working against, rather than with, one another.

Here are six ways to align information stakeholders and proactively avert conflict.

1. Formalize stakeholder relationships

All too often, information stakeholders are thrust into meeting for the first time because of urgent matters, such as litigation or discovery requests. These matters require cross-functional collaboration, and yet crucial relationships may not be defined. To ensure all stakeholders are connected, you may want to start an information governance steering committee comprising key members from security, compliance, privacy, legal, IT, and other lines of business that hold essential company information — like HR or finance. By proactively bringing stakeholders together and formalizing their roles and responsibilities, you can foster clear communication and coordination from the get-go.

2. Understand information’s value from all perspectives

Company information is multifaceted. It lives in different places and serves different purposes, so its lifecycle isn’t clear-cut — nor is its treatment. For example, while personally identifiable information (PII) may need to be held for regulatory compliance reasons, you might want your year-over-year company performance metrics for business strategy purposes. To avoid miscommunication and conflict, your information governance framework needs to address the value of information from all angles. To start, you can ask questions like: What purpose does this data serve? What department(s) are concerned with this data and why? How might this data pose risk, maximize value, or both? The sooner teams address information from a holistic view, rather than a siloed view, the better.

3. Make a plan for potential conflicts with risk front-of-mind

Once you map out the answers to these questions, you can start to spot overlap and conflict in priorities. Although every organization is different, the most common conflict arises around the question of retention — whether to keep or delete. Although you might be legally bound to retain information, you might also be required to delete information for privacy matters. In scenarios like this, it’s crucial that the necessary stakeholders come together to resolve issues, and not just the ones in conflict. Depending on the situation, you may need the input of separate stakeholders, such as IT, to help you understand what technical solutions are possible. Regardless of the nature of your potential conflicts, identifying them early on will help you get ahead of pain, risk, and confusion.

4. Develop an information governance policy

After you outline stakeholder relationships and identify potential conflicts, you’ll want to bake those solutions into your information governance policy. There’s a lot to consider in developing a policy, but a good rule of thumb is to focus on people, process, and technology. You’ll also want to break it into two portions: minimizing risk and maximizing value.

On the minimizing risk front, narrowing down legal, compliance, and privacy obligations first will ensure the most critical protocols are covered. This could include anything from the who/when/how of handling yearly audits to creating a data retention policy. Once that’s done, you can move on to the data maximization portion, which informs how you will protect and utilize your information. This could be anything from handling eDiscovery to data loss prevention measures. Every company’s policy may look different, but the one thing that should remain consistent is alignment from all information stakeholders.

5. Assign roles and responsibilities

Once you develop an information governance policy, you’ll want to make sure every stakeholder understands their roles and responsibilities. This ensures your framework is put into practice effectively. Every organization looks different, but a good way to delegate responsibilities among each department is branching down from the executive level to working groups. Executives, such as the CIO, CSO, General Counsel, and others can operate as key decision-makers, and different departments, such as security, IT, and compliance, can form working groups to encourage better data stewardship over their own information.

6. Unify your information in one place

You can have all the right people and policies in place, but without the right technology, it can still be a challenge to locate your most vital information — which can lead to stakeholder conflict. Especially when it comes to the scattered, proliferating nature of cloud applications, keeping tabs on dynamic data such as messages, threads, and attachments in so many locations can be daunting. More often than not, teams end up heavily relying on IT to expend more time and resources. Implementing a solution that brings all of your siloed data in one private, secure, and searchable place can make it easier for stakeholders to find what they need at a moment’s notice. Not only can this help you avert future conflict, but also reduce risk, maximize value, and enhance compliance.

Organizations have a huge opportunity to leverage key information to help realize their goals — but first, their governance framework must guide key stakeholders towards alignment. By focusing on the factors we’ve discussed, you can start to transform your information governance plan to work for your people, not against them.