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!

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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.

14 April 2014

Show Me the Money



The first Executive Conference on Information Governance convened today at Amelia Island, Florida.  Produced by ARMA International and The Sedona Conference, over 100 attorneys, RIM authorities, and technologists (along with assorted specialists in security, compliance, and other disciplines) gathered to explore the potential of and obstacles to Information Governance.  In five plenary sessions, panels of experienced and knowledgeable thought leaders shared their perceptions and understandings of this relatively new field.  There were significant contributions from attendees with supportive or complementary perspectives and experiences.

While subjects ranged from Change Management to the efficacy of new technology, the theme that emerged repeatedly, throughout the day, was ROI – Return on Investment.  At one point while taking notes, I simply wrote an entire line of repeated “ROI”s.  

It would be an overstatement to say the sessions were “All ROI, all the time,” but the frequency of the term underscores this very serious reality:  Unless Information Governance makes good business sense, its chances of adoption are small.

There are many good reasons for installing Information Governance that have nothing directly to do with money.  And there are easy examples of how instituting an Information Governance program can pay for itself in three to seven years.  The message today was these are not compelling for most organizations’ leaders.

Information Governance, for all its good logic, needs to improve a business’ or institution’s financial situation.  Without that, it is merely a good idea of low priority.  Further, the financial improvement must be measurable and it must occur in a short time frame.

Risk reduction, by itself, is not enough.  Telling an organization that its legal position will be stronger is inadequate.  Telling an organization that its five-year average of legal fees and/or fines will be reduced by 40 percent in the first year is compelling.

The ROI can come from anywhere: the legal arena, savings in storage costs, operational efficiencies, or any of several other areas.  However, the bottom line is that Information Governance lacking a solid business case is DOA – Dead on Arrival.

Again, to say that this was the sole point of the day would be misleading.  Many varied and helpful points emerged, such as the relationship between IG and current technology.  Still ROI was a recurring theme.

In Friday’s Blog, I hoped for the emergence of common definitions to align the efforts of varied Information Governors.  Alas, this was not to be.  I fear that we still have attorneys who think that IG is a synonym for eDiscovery, techies who think IG means reduced storage, and records people who equate IG with ARMA’s Principles.  Hopefully, this will be addressed tomorrow before adjournment

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