29 October 2014

Toward Goals

ARMA 2014 – the conference and expo – met in San Diego this week. Here's my initial impression and a differentiator from past meetings:

More devotees of Records & Information Management/Governance now recognize that their efforts must enhance and support movement toward their organizations’ goals.  In the private sector, that generally means contributing to black ink on the balance sheet.

In past years, records purists tried to perfect their discipline:

  •        The data map and records inventory must be complete and comprehensive
  •       The retention schedule must have the optimum number of classifications and be refreshed on an aggressive schedule
  •       The taxonomy must be optimized and current
  •        The numbers on the Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles Maturity Model must rise each year

These were always important, but now there is a greater realization that the goal is a successful organization, not a pure practice of the discipline.

This may reflect the rise of Information Governance in the RIM community.  IG is more holistic, reflecting a concern with organization success.  It gets RIM practitioners out of their silo (or Records Center) and closer to the C-suite.  There, they share or buy into the overall goal of the organization – commercially speaking, more profits or a rising stock price.

Stay tuned for more from ARMA 2014.

23 April 2014

Clarification of Last Post

Gentle Reader:

A statement in my last post, the wrapup to the Executive Conference on Information Governance, deserves clarification.

When I reported that, "ARMA scraped to send five people to Amelia Island," I was referring to ARMA staff members.

The greater ARMA community was well-represented, with some 80 percent of attendees registering through ARMA's efforts.

Clear?  I hope so.  I do check comments from time to time, so feel free to point out ambiguities.  Thanks!


17 April 2014

In Retrospect: The First Executive Conference on Information Governance

Last year, when leaders of ARMA International and The Sedona Conference discovered they were each planning conferences on Information Governance for this April, it was obvious they should combine their efforts, not compete.  The result was the first Executive Conference on Information Governance, held April 14-15 at Amelia Island, Florida.

Congratulations to ARMA and Sedona on a highly successful conference!  The logistics were generally excellent, the faculty had much to offer, and the attendance of practitioners exceeded critical mass. This occurrence is significant because it claims the much-bandied concept of Information Governance for a community of professionals.  The software-vendor sponsors played a much appreciated, supportive role – a welcome relief from the “Our Solution Will Solve Everything!!!” blaring of trade shows.

The ARMA-Sedona cooperation was a marriage of convenience, not necessarily one of intimate communication. There was plenty of respect and appreciation between the legal folk and the RIMmers.  In short supply was shared values and common language.

As I noted in previous posts, lawyers, technologists, and records managers all have their own definitions and understandings of Information Governance.  If you asked security and compliance experts, you would probably get additional definitions as well.  

This is, if not a problem, at least a hindrance.  The value and whole raison d’etre of Information Governance comes from the synergy of stakeholders.  IG arose because lawyers needed help from Records and IT to succeed in litigation.  IT needed help applying Legal Holds and disposing data.  Records needed Legal to enforce compliance with retention and disposition policies.  Without IG, historical limitations persist.

This conference was a great boost to IG success.  However it seemed more like parallel play than teamwork. Leaders from different areas educated each other well on their particular goals and values.  The next step should be to find ways for stakeholders to contribute to each other’s achievements. Again: the goal of IG is improvement through synergy.

To achieve real progress, ARMA and Sedona will have to recognize and appreciate the different behavior types that predominate their memberships.  On Day 2, in particular, attorneys ran the show.  This is not surprising, since lawyers are trained as, and are by disposition, assertive persuaders.  Records managers tend to be more introverted and less brash.  Lawyers often thrive on ambiguity and the adrenaline-rush of impending judgment.  Records Managers generally want order, control, and predictability.  Hence, while the partnership may be equal in conference planning, Sedona dominated the public manifestation.  

Relatively fewer of RIM’s best thinkers attended, but this is not too surprising.  Lawyers have “deeper pockets” than RIMmers.  ARMA scraped to send five people to Amelia Island, and very few records managers can come up with about $3000 for a short conference announced after many 2014 budgets were set.  The price was in line with other CLE credit opportunities, but much higher than what many CRMs pay for continuing education.

Next year’s conference will be helped by the success of this one.  Planning for 2015 has already begun.  However, serious consideration needs to address the need for balance in the program and the attendance.

IG’s most critical need is common definitions assembled into a lexicon.  Synergy requires communication, and communication requires shared language.  If ARMA and Sedona cannot hammer out mutually accepted definitions, progress in Information Governance will be limited.

This first Executive Conference on Information Governance was a big success, but not an unqualified one.  It provided a great platform upon which to build.  It also revealed serious challenges to accelerating progress.

I congratulate the organizers on recognizing the need for and successfully producing an outstanding conference.  Huzzah!

I fervently hope that the buildup to next year’s conference will include the very hard work of building consensus on what IG means and how IG constituents can cooperate most effectively.

Go team!

n     --  30

16 April 2014

Law and Technology Move Center Stage

Day 2 of the first ARMA/Sedona Executive Conference on Information Governance turned toward technology and law.  Tech featured the world of Big Data, while a mock trial and an exploration of IG in the public sector excited the legal eagles.  RIM features, like The Principles, took backstage until brief appearances at the concluding “town hall” forum.

Both presenters and attendees agreed: Big Data is ignored at one’s own peril, and it raises a multitude of questions and ethical dilemmas.  Repeatedly, presenters emphasized that Big Data is not “more of the same”.  There is certainly more data than before, but the real difference is the analytical algorithms applied to the data. 

Amazon uses algorithms to move books and products to nearby distribution centers even before a buyer places an order.  While enabling quick delivery can be important, using algorithms for alerts to medical conditions or pharmaceutical needs can be life-saving.  

In contrast, some Big Data analyses presented seemed ominously futuristic, like dystopic sci-fi movies where individuals’ every movement and choice are accurately predicted by a controlling government or mad scientist. In reality, whether Big Data is beneficial, neutral, or sinister depends on its use.  Is Edward Snowden a hero or a villain?

Why is Big Data significant for Information Governance?
  •        Algorithms enable more accurate eDiscovery
  •        Algorithms auto-classify records more quickly and accurately than human staff
  •         Big Data (and its analysis) raise serious ethical issues   
    •  It may collect personal information without consent
    • When consent is given, Big Data may be used for purposes beyond that of its original collection

Conference dialogue repeated that all data has value (more or less) and all data has risk.  The balance between the two invokes ethics in how the data is used.  Since members of the Bar, Certified Records Managers, and certified Information Governance Professionals are bound by ethical codes, understanding Big Data and its uses are essential to professional responsibility.

At the concluding “town hall” forum, presenters encouraged attendees to apply the conference’s lessons to their daily work.  The concepts of IG are over-arching, and the technology can be imposing, but that should not paralyze practitioners.  “Start small,” several leaders implored:

  •       Learn more about complementary disciplines. 

o   The non-technical should learn more about Big Data and how it works, perhaps by taking a course in probability or statistics.
o   RIMmers and techies should keep up on emerging case law relating to records, as well as revisions to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
o   Attorneys should add the Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles to their repertoire, moving on to newer and broader concepts of records and their management

  •  Apply Information Governance to under-managed information such as records held by  suppliers, including Cloud providers 
  •  Introduce and enlist organizations’ high-ranking officers to IG.  Consensus said it takes a C-level leader to harness the disparate contributors to IG.

The concluding forum also invoked the “C” Suite in plans for 2015.  Even though this first “executive” conference was light on executive attendance, I sensed real enthusiasm for high-level involvement next year.  Most likely, ARMA and Sedona will make an extra effort to recruit enlightened officers.  They may reach even higher, to corporate boards of directors and corporate secretaries.

As I mentioned, there were only a few references to The Principles, as well as Sedona’s Guidelines, as background and reference for ongoing IG work.

At lunch with leaders from both ARMA and The Sedona Conference, I reiterated my hope that there would be at least a nominal attempt at forging a mutually acceptable definition of “Information Governance”.  Alas, my plea went unheeded, and the conference closed with everyone’s preconceptions intact.  

In the fourth (and possibly) final post on this conference, I will present a summary and analysis of the event as a whole.  Tune in tomorrow for another exciting adventure into the emerging world of Information Governance.