Information Governance is a Journey


Scene from Stand videoI’ve been talking a lot about Information Governance of late. The reason I’ve been doing it is because if it simply becomes a term used in place of Records Management we will have wasted an opportunity. Information Governance is different. It needs to be different.

Records Management failed. We need a new approach. Information Governance has the potential to be that new approach, if we tackle it correctly. If we get lazy, we will be fighting the same battles for another decade.

Information Governance, How Business is Done

If you want to see how information should be handled, let’s look at a bank. Specifically, let’s look at how a bank handles money. Banks deal in money the way most organizations deal in information.

Everyone at the bank works with money. Money should always be where it is expected. Losing money is, hopefully, a rare event. There is automatic tracking for every transaction. When people perform duties that have been automated by ATMs and the web, extra paper receipts are automatically generated to guard against human error.

In a bank, everyone is performing “money governance” without thinking about it. There is no relying on a money manager to reconcile all the transactions and make sure they are recorded everyday. Behind the scenes, there are specialists who setup policies and procedures and validate that they are being followed. The key aspect is that those specialists aren’t doing all of the work.

Managing money is just how business is done.

We need to do the same thing with Information.

Information Governance is Not a Project

Scene from Everybody Hurts videoThis is obvious to those experienced in the industry, but it bears repeating. You cannot execute a single project to implement Information Governance no matter how big that project is.

You can have projects in support of Information Governance. There are many potential projects in any organization:

  • Define the Information Governance goals and framework for the organization.
  • Assess the current state of Information Governance, including tools, in the organization.
  • Selection and implementation for any tools needed.
  • Creation of a training program.
  • Migration and retirement of old, legacy systems.

Many of those projects may be repeated within an organization based upon need. They can be combined into a larger effort and frequently are. That is where the trap of the program comes into play.

Information Governance is Not a Program

If you make Information Governance a program, then you are going to have a tough road. This was the preferred approach a decade ago. I wrote at least one white paper on the concept. The program approach has proved to be insufficient.

The problem with making it a program is that it is still separate from the every day. Do banks have a program for managing money? No they don’t. Information needs to be handled in the same manner.

That doesn’t mean that there cannot be an ‘Information Governance Establishment’ program. Making the transition is a lot of work and setting-up a larger effort to get things started is a good idea.The star from REM's Automatic for the People album

After all, this is a journey. A long one.

The goal is that people work in such a way that information is properly captured, categorized, controlled, protected, and disposed. Proper Information Governance needs to be automatic. Part of the everyday.

And that is going to take time. It is going to take the right tools and training. It will take the proper understanding of the value of information and the costs that occur when information is lost.

It is a journey that will take time. At the end we will be able to stand, look around the place that we live and work, and realize that it is finally just happening.

Just think about how good that would feel.

3 thoughts on “Information Governance is a Journey

  1. Thank your for an interesting and stimulating post. I am not sure records management has failed. Instead, it may never have been applied properly in the digital age where filing has been overtaken by searching. However, that is a different discussion.

    I, too, think that records management is changing, I do not think it is becoming information governance nor is information governance another term for records management. instead, I think the change is in the possibility of assigning value to records so that each record can be managed like an asset. As you say, imagine if records were manged as money. I blogged that idea here: http://thoughtmanagement.org/2011/09/01/why-dont-organisations-manage-their-information-in-the-same-way-they-manage-their-money/

    Here is how I see records management changing as value can be assigned to records.http://thoughtmanagement.org/2012/04/21/here-is-the-next-revolution-in-records-and-records-management/

    Thanks for a stimulating post.

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    • It has been 20 years and we still can’t make Records Management work…it has failed. Managing records is just one aspect of Information Governance and tackling it and not the big picture is PART of the failure.

      The assignment of value is important, but more as a way to get people to understand why this matters. We all understand why we have to manage money, it has known value. If we can asign the same to information, even a close approximation for the total value in an organization, we can succeed.

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