Information and Data Governance Forum
Sydney 14 - 15 December 2010
At short notice, I was invited to come along to this forum and was able to attend most sessions on the first day. I made space in my day because I was curious about the Information Governance community in Sydney.
My day-to-day role is in the broader field of Information Management. A subtle distinction to an outsider, but in practice I find there is a world of difference. Sceptical? I understand, but let me try to convince you. I'm sure that I will also offend people, but what the hell, life's too short to be agreeable all the time ...
Influence versus Action
The forum presentations and discussions highlighted the IG (Information Governance) emphasis on the big picture of corporate policies and the need to sell executive management on the idea of IG. My experience of IM (Information Management) is that there is a greater focus on directly delivering value to business users of information.
In summary, IG = influence while IM = action.
I can hear the howls of protest from my IG colleagues already. I stand by these words because my actions match them. To me, IM is only worth investing in when there is a direct pay-off for the business. Yes, I'm talking about demonstrable return on investment (ROI).
My IM responsibilities primarily manifest themselves as projects. Projects with a budget and timescale to deliver an agreed set of business benefits. These benefits are measured and used to determine whether-or-not the project is successful.
IG is also something I own and while it is vital to achieving greater IM value (ROI), it is an enabler. It drives indirectly a great deal of the value that a good IM project delivers.
I believe that this is important to remember when considering investments of time and money in IG. Here are a couple of measuring sticks that I find are useful when considering IG investments:
- Will the IG capabilities be used in existing or in-stream IM business activities? If they are not, then don't do it. Keep them in your back pocket for a time when the organisation is a more mature practitioner of IM.
- Do the new IM benefits that the IG capabilities make possible, exceed their cost? Or in other words, is the ROI sufficient to justify making this investment instead of another?
In my experience IG rarely meets these criteria, and so, if I'm really pushed to give someone practical advice, then it is that you can also simply consider the 'right' level of IG as being those IG activities that you can afford to do within your existing resources (people and technologies) while you are busy delivering on your IM initiatives.
Don't get me wrong. I value IG strategically, but I think that the connections you can make between IM and value are more persuasive to the wider business community. And that often means that I can fund IM but not IG - but I can use IM to implement improved IG. Governance by stealth, if you like.
The Information Governance Community
But what about today's Information and Data Governance Forum? Well, it was a surprise on a couple of fronts. Firstly, it was a very small group and I was expecting to see more people. Perhaps it is too late in the year and being in the middle of the festive lunch season put many people off. But at least those that turned up all seemed to be 'hard core' IG managers. So there was some real experiences to be learned from.
There was also a predominance of government organisations represented, followed by a number of large industrial companies. On reflection it was refreshingly free of financial and consulting people. I feel safe to say that, having now moved 'out' of finance and into media.
You can fool some of the people all the time, and those are the ones you want to concentrate on. George W. Bush
So a number of the presentations were made from a fresh perspective. There was a lot of talk about the legal implications of poor/missing IG, records management and retention of information. 75, 80 and 'unlimited' years of records being required in some cases. It makes my 5 - 10 year retention policies look easy.
It was also interesting to learn that metadata is discoverable under Australian law. Something I had not given thought to before.
Finally, there was some talk about classification of information. This is something I have marked down as being too difficult in my own organisation. For semi-structured and unstructured data I am pursuing a strategy of employing ever smarter search technology rather than trying to classify a small fraction of the vast amounts of information that a media conglomerate produces each day.
I guess you can say that I am still betting on technology delivering a result faster and cheaper than cultural change. Maybe I'm still a man with a hammer that sees everything as a nail.
It's what keeps me up at night.
I blame the users. If I could just replace them with a bit of software then all my problems would be solved. Now where did I leave that hammer?