The Two Sides of Information Governance


Sometimes things just fall together. This past weekend, I watched Raiders of the Lost Ark with my sons, reveling as they experienced all the quirks for the first time.

Then on Monday, I had a conversation about Information Governance with a fellow practitioner. They remarked that there were two pillars of Information Governance. At first I agreed, Value (Information Management) and Risk (Records Management/eDiscovery) are the two dynamics at play in Information Governance.

I then realized that they were really two sides of the same coin. They are not as separate as two pillars might be. They are intertwined. After a little thought, I decided that the headpiece to the Staff of Ra from the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark was actually the perfect paradigm.

Full Benefit from Both Sides

For those that haven’t seen the movie, shame on you. I will take a moment to share the relevant part. The headpiece was designed to be placed on top of a staff. When inserted into the proper hole on the floor of the map room in Tanis, the sun would hit the crystal, and a beam would shoot out, marking where the Ark of the Covenant was located in the city.

What makes this relevant is the size of the staff. The headpiece says that the staff must be 6 kadams high, which is about 72 inches. The other side says,

And take back one kadam to honor the Hebrew God whose Ark this is.

Without both sides of the headpiece, you are not going to get the desired value from the Staff of Ra.

Information Governance is much the same way. Both sides need to be taken into account if you are going to realize true value.

The Interdependence of Value and Risk

For years, the risk side of the equation, Records Management and eDiscovery, have been well understood. eDiscovery has been a straightforward project to get funded for many organizations. Getting large Records Management efforts has always been a little more challenging in non-regulated industries but they eventually get some funding.

Information Management has been sold for years as Enterprise Content Management (ECM) as a means to generate value. Return on Investment (ROI) has been shaky because many of the benefits when process automation isn’t involved are ‘soft’. They require real work to measure and understand.

Together, Information Governance combines the two to show the full lifecycle of information. Providing a way to generate value AND mitigate risk is something that is more readily sold and implemented.

Of course, this seems reasonable but how is it any different? Maybe we need to change the two sides into something else.

Let’s take the Staff and look at it from a less conventional angle, but one that is more important. How about an organization’s needs (risk) and people’s needs (value/productivity) as the two sides? The organization’s requirements may be the driving force of a project but if you don’t take into account what people actually need to be productive, your project will miss the target.

You’ll be digging in the wrong place.

3 thoughts on “The Two Sides of Information Governance

  1. Interesting analogy! So, Information Governance gives you six kadams of business value, but you need to sacrifice one kadam to appease the regulators and the lawyers? Yep, that sounds about right! 😉

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    • So many ways to splice it. I think of all the regulator requirements as 6 kadams of red tape that are needed. However, if you don’t take that final kadam into account for the people, you’ll come up empty. The needs may be simpler but they are no less important.

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  2. Love the analogy! These paragraphs also resonated with my experience in getting stakeholder buy-in.

    “Information Management has been sold for years as Enterprise Content Management (ECM) as a means to generate value. Return on Investment (ROI) has been shaky because many of the benefits when process automation isn’t involved are ‘soft’. They require real work to measure and understand.

    Together, Information Governance combines the two to show the full lifecycle of information. Providing a way to generate value AND mitigate risk is something that is more readily sold and implemented.”

    ECM and the utopia of well executed knowledge management – and it’s potential to bring around organizational change and growth – is difficult to fathom.

    Saving the ship from eminent risk was a lot easier to sell than changing it’s direction.

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