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


  1. Gordy, I think it will take more than logic and goodwill to get these distinct groups to dump their profession-centric vocabularies and definitions. Perhaps a more achievable solution -- and, in any case, a necessary start -- would be to develop a concordance. Thanks for the commentaries!
    Fred Grevin, Vice-President, Records Management, NYC Economic Development Corporation. fgrevin@nycedc.com

  2. Gordy,
    Thank you for your commentary. I greatly appreciate your status of RIM / IG and the context of your last blog post. Very interesting to see what direction this will go. Your time and effort are very greatly appreciated. -Jason Bourg, MLIS

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts for those of us who could not afford to attend.

  4. Thanks for covering the event, Gordy. I think the chasm between the RIM and Legal is illustrative of the challenge in organizations of getting cross-functional IG teams to collaborate.

    To see the problem clearly, we need only to revisit the IG Reference Model, which has 5 distinct functional impact areas: RIM, yes, Legal, yes, but also IT, Privacy & Security, and Business.

    So if the conference organizers can get CIOs and senior IT staff to the table - I believe the first priority - along with representatives from Privacy & Security (e.g. International Association of Privacy Professionals), and Business, (could begin with auditors in the IIA, and CFOs and financial professionals) the conference program will be more balanced and a more holistic view of IG will emerge.

    When all 5 key areas of the IG reference are represented, attendees will gain a more balanced understanding of IG concepts, challenges, and solutions. IT is especially critical since it impacts all the other areas.