After a pause for Christmas it’s great to be bringing you this next addition to the series I started last year about a new partnership approach for effective governance of unstructured enterprise content. As you’ll hopefully recall, this series is based upon our practical experiences from the last few years’ supporting customers in their implementations of our file analysis products and especially draws upon recent work with large enterprises such as BAE Systems and Rio Tinto.

Last time out I made the point that despite most people ‘getting’ the soft benefits involved, investments in information governance (IG) technologies and projects can be incredibly challenging to get through procurement gates, especially with ever-present emphasis on hard ROI. This led to our developing a shared-risk model which underpins the business case for Rio Tinto’s adoption of our software as a platform for their unstructured information governance. In this article I intend to further develop that model and describe how we combine software capabilities with a delivery ‘wrapper’ to make clear outcomes a reality. (Side note…, I still find myself wondering whether or not the ‘hard ROI thing’ is a helpful state of affairs in IG. Most organizations I have worked with create a quantitative business case but the focus on the numbers often leads to issues with expectation management and stakeholder engagement, especially when internal recharge models are involved. That said, ‘Who pays for what’ in IG is perhaps better left ’til later).

As a software vendor aiming its solutions firmly at the emerging IG market, the relationship between delivery and software capability can be a source of real tension. The reality being that many (most?) organizations don’t yet have the right people resources to frame and implement their own IG projects or programs. This means that if one is committed to articulating a hard ROI there may be nobody around who can do so effectively. In Rio Tinto’s case, its IG vision has long been present and so has the realization that – by choice – much of the necessary resource must be found from outside. This understanding led to a natural discussion about how its own IG leadership might be augmented by our experience and knowhow for actually delivering the outcomes it sought. This was the root of our partnership. What we needed to do was build some measurability around it that we could deliver with an acceptable degree of risk whilst, of course, providing a real return to the business.

In its objectives, if Gartner’s Data Center Conference Survey of 2013 on IG is still representative, Rio Tinto is no different from around half of the organizations out there. That is, it wants to understand its content, value it and then take defensible action based upon that value. We therefore designed a service to discover, on an ongoing basis, the value and quality of unstructured content across a global information estate. At a petabyte scale and with the complexities and risks inherent in what would be involved the key lay in simplicity; the service therefore adopts a three-tier model by which our technology through the enabling service would triage content as either “assure”, “delete” or “migrate” (to low-cost cloud storage) based upon valuations with consistent and determinant business rules. Importantly the model would be extensible to support additional sub-tiers as the service matured – such extension represented significant potential additional value for both parties but also recognized that the platform needed to be established first before the service could become more ambitious.

As the vendor, our commitment through our software and service is to triage content as it is made available to us. In return we receive a fee per terabyte based upon the resulting storage cost saving, accounting for everything from fully-loaded management costs to the potential savings secured by migration to cloud storage (such as that offered by Amazon or Azure services). Our margin lies in an expectation/prediction (enshrined in the business case) that our software will discover minimum percentages of content in each triage class. Rio Tinto’s commitment to us is that it will deliver content to us at a rate that enables us to make a return from our service effort. In short, the service backs our belief, based on experience, that the target content would conform to a certain overall quality profile.

Of course, there’s much more to it than this brief summary can cover but only the most committed of you could bare to wade through that detail. The point that makes this so important, I think, comes back to the hard ROI for both parties. To make that happen, both sides share risk and have worked together to make the ROI model sufficiently repeatable and scalable to encompass the global estate whilst our software, at the core of the service, protects the margin in the venture for us as a provider. All this has made the partnership possible and set up a platform upon which we intend to deliver a much wider set of IG capabilities beyond the hard ROI. A big part of that platform is a set of IG Services to enable the IG vision; whilst it cannot be that IG itself can be outsourced, this is an example where an important part of the foundation has been.

Whilst you might want to hear more about how the hard ROI model works, I’m afraid there are limits to what I can share openly. In lieu of that detail my commitment will be for my next post to cover the wider benefits that the service is already delivering beyond the hard business case.

Looking forward to your feedback.

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