The Cultural Implications of Information Governance – Why One Size Does Not Fit All in a Global Society

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The 2-20 Family of Companies investigates some of the driving factors for implementing information governance (IG) programs around the world. As laws and cultural attitudes towards recordkeeping vary by global regions, different approaches should be taken to ensure the successful adoption of information practices, but still arrive at the same end-result. Written by 2-20`s resident information governance expert Ilona N. Koti, Ilona gives her insights on how to take on IG throughout the world.

Within the records community, there has always been a great deal of discussion as to why the rest of the world outside of North America has not yet adopted many of the more sophisticated electronic technologies and/or strict destruction schedules that we have in the “western hemisphere”. While most of us by now know what information governance (IG) is and why it is important, then why are we having such difficulty convincing our colleagues around the world to manage their information as we Westerners do? The answer is that most other countries are nowhere near as litigious as the US, Canada and sometimes the UK. Therefore, without the excessive governmental fines and attorney fees, different drivers are required to motivate other cultures to instill strong IG programs within their organizations.

I am very fortunate to have lived on both US coasts, but to have also spent several years living outside of America and have worked in a truly global environment. Based upon my research and observations, I have made a conscious effort to understand and study other cultures, and to look at what change management factors are required to gain acceptance for instilling good recordkeeping practices around the world. As an information professional, you are not changing the end results, you are simply changing the way in which you are explaining information governance and will stress certain benefits over others depending on the part of the world that you are operating in. Simply stated, you are changing your marketing efforts based upon your audience, but your overall outcome will still be incorporating a successful IG program into your organization.

I certainly plan on expanding upon the cultural impacts of IG in the future in more detailed writings and research as the topic is extensive. However, the following points are my brief take on how IG should be marketed in six segmented global regions. While prime benefits and risks to creating and/or maintaining a key information governance program should all be listed in an IG strategy, remember to place the most emphasis on the points that are apt to have the greatest cultural impact to gain acceptance and approval based upon your targeted region.

One last point. Regardless of where you are in the world, for the foreseeable future, keep in mind that there are jobs out there that rely on excessive paper and/or process just for people to have jobs. While change may be necessary, be conscious and willing to accept that someone has a very outdated or unnecessarily difficult role processing various pieces of information (probably on paper) for reasons beyond your control that you may not be able change at this point in time. Should you encounter an organizationally created bottleneck, make a note, document it as a future improvement and move on with your other key points to still sell in a successful information governance initiative.

Africa/MENA (Middle East & North Africa)/India – Due to rapid expansion and a strong focus on economic development, when presenting an information governance strategy to this region, it is vital to stress how implementing and maintaining information and data can result in capturing metrics and tangible results that directly correlate with improved financial performance for an organization. While it is always a best practice to connect IG to the overall corporate strategy; in the African, MENA and Indian geographic areas, be especially conscious to not only link to corporate goals, but focus on fiscal organizational growth as well.

Asia – Well known for the emphasis on quality control and process improvement, the Asian continent places a great deal of emphasis on ISO 9000 certification as well as Six Sigma. One of the prime factors of ISO 9000 is the proper maintenance of controlled documents. Therefore, if an organization that is ISO 9000 certified, exhibits poor records practices with maintaining some of their core documentation, the organization may not fully be compliant, which in turn may jeopardize their ISO status. Stress quality, compliance and efficiency to gain credibility in the Asian sector.

Australia/New Zealand – Similar to Europe in the need for privacy, but with the entrepreneurial spirit of North America, this region presents itself as a hybrid culture, or what is known as a co-regulatory model where some recordkeeping requirements are required, but simultaneously organizations have voluntarily implemented world-class information programs. Australia in particular, has exported many leading electronic information management products and worldwide information standards, which translates into a potentially less complicated sell for implementing an IG program.

Europe – The European Union (EU) has brought together dozens of independent countries into a unified voice focused mostly on continuously improving business process management workflows. Europe, especially in the northern countries, is all about efficiency. If better managing information translates into overall enhanced corporate efficiencies, then you should readily gain the attention of an organization if you can help enrich operational processes or decrease costs. Another aspect to remember is that the EU is one of the leading advocates of protecting individual privacy, thus if an IG program can show both process improvement and enhanced privacy, adoption should be imminent for European entities.

North America – Litigation mitigation or avoidance is the key driver for most US and Canadian based organizations to endorse comprehensive information programs. As big data is also proving to be a very effective driver in gaining a competitive corporate advantage and monetary gain, information is a strategic asset in developing business intelligence and can be the make or break factor to gain market share in the information age. Canada unlike the US, but similar to Europe, also has world-class privacy legislation in place, hence an additional IG point of persuasion.

South America – With varying levels of influence from local governments and European immigration, South America is also a hybrid information culture and the approach required to pitch a successful information strategy will vary depending upon the country or region of proposed operations. Before launching an IG program into the South American market, research the influx of citizens and business ownership and apply accordingly. Finally, as South America is also experiencing rapid economic development in various regions, furthering financial growth should be considered as a part of the IG strategy.

Thanks for reading THE CULTURAL IMPLICATIONS OF INFORMATION GOVERNANCE – WHY ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL IN A GLOBAL SOCIETY. Sign-up for our 2-20 blog to receive automatic alerts for new postings. For questions, comments or to request new blog topics please contact Ilona at –

Ilona N. Koti is a Certified Records Manager (CRM) through the Institute of Certified Records Managers (ICRM). Ilona is also a PMP, CDIA+, has two masters degrees from Syracuse in addition to 20 years in libraries and information governance. Follow Ilona on Twitter @IlonaKoti or LinkedIn IlonaKoti