RIM practitioners have been banging on about compliance, governance, and risk for ages, to the point where I think audiences have become desensitized to the messages. So what do we do about it?
Change the Tune
Instead of continuing to talk about Records and governance, which only resonates with a small percentage of stakeholders, change the focus to Information. Julie Colgan started things off with her probing piece on the AIIM Community forum. We need to switch from talking about the bad things that happen when you don’t manage records properly, to the good things that happen when you do manage information properly. This is not to say that records don’t need to be managed; my contention is that Records Management is subservient to Information Management and that information governance imposes constraints on users and the organizations they work for.
Just for fun I cruised through the table of contents of 17 issues of Information Management published by ARMA between July 2007 and January 2011. My goal was to find feature articles that were focused on the value of information and not on the governance of information; I found very few. Even articles (there were two, if I recall correctly) that were E2.0 (or social networking or Web2.0 or …) specific focused more on how to govern organizations’ use of E2.0 than on the value and benefits to be gained. In the November/December 2009 issue, in an article titled “Equipping Your Organization For The Social Networking Game” the authors (Nancy Dupre Barnes, Ph.D. & Frederick R. Barnes, J.D.) provide 10 “Recommendations for Internally Designed Sites”. The blurb preceding the recommendations states “These recommendations apply, in a general sense, to social networking sites designed internally for an organization’s business use. As such, it is important for the organization to seek and obtain approval from appropriate legal advisors prior to go-live.” The recommendations are:
- “Pay attention to policy pertaining to logo, (trademark or service mark) usage.”
- “Use disclaimers.”
- “Discourage or do not allow anonymity on the site.”
- “Use a single sign-on directory infrastructure for employees’ site access.”
- “For publicly traded companies, become familiar with SEC regulations regarding the disclosure of financial data.” (I won’t take umbrage with the uniquely U.S. view that ignores us Canadians)
- “Post terms and conditions for the use of the site.”
- “Observe intellectual property and copyright laws.”
- “Respect user privacy.”
- “Create a guide that incorporates all aspects of use of the site.”
- “Create training materials and offer opportunities for individuals to educate themselves on appropriate use of the site.”
All of these recommendations are perfectly valid, but none of them are unique to E2.0 and most of them ought to be contained in an organization’s information management policies. However, the biggest fault of these recommendations is that they will likely be met with a resounding “who cares?” when presented to the folks that actually have to use the E2.0 tools to do their work. There is also one critical governance recommendation missing: Anything you write / publish as part of your job belongs to the organization, not to you.
Let’s face it; if we unleash E2.0 on the workforce and expect them to use it productively (however the organization defines productively) we better give them recommendations that they can use to do their jobs. Here is a list of recommendations that may be better received:
- Have your work reviewed before you publish it.
- Make your content relevant.
- All of you are smarter than one of you.
- Learn from each other, teach each other.
- Understand your audience and engage them.
My point is that by changing the message we will get better buy in. Focus the message on the value and nature of the information and rely on the common sense and good intentions of the majority of the users to do the right things.
Change the Audience
We need to stop talking primarily to the executives and start talking more to the users. We need to develop new communication strategies with appropriate messaging for the various target audiences. We need to look at the advertising and marketing industry for inspiration and guidance. After all, we are selling Information Management to a broad spectrum of consumers from varying demographic groups.
Change the Messenger
Vendors, consultants, risk managers, legal counsel, “the man”, … we all have been delivering the messages for what seems like forever. It’s true that we know what needs to be done and we think we know how to get it done. However, in many cases it’s not getting done the way it ought to be done, nor with the enthusiasm we thought would be there. How many times have we looked into the eyes of the users and thought they’re thinking “This is just more bullsh*t from management.”? The users are wrong, but I understand where they’re coming from.
If we really want information management to be accepted and succeed we need the users to deliver the message to their peers. If we can make this happen it will work; I know because I’ve seen it happen. The challenge for us is how to make it happen.
Last month I was talking to a counsellor at my son’s junior high school about educating kids about life online (my earlier post on the subject). She’s doing it the right way; she is identifying a core group of student champions, providing them with the right messages, tools, and guidance, and letting them educate & motivate their peers.
Rise to the Top
Information Management needs to be represented in the C-suite. You may say “It is, look at all the CIO’s out there”. It’s not. Most CIO’s are IT executives whose focus is on how to get the most out of an organization’s technology assets (servers, network infrastructure, applications, databases, etc.). A CIO needs to be focused on an organization’s information assets in the same manner that a CFO is focused on financial assets. The CIO’s focus must be on how to leverage information to the organization’s best advantage.
C-suite appointments need to reflect that technology exists to support business. However, we can never lose sight of the fact that technology also provides capabilities and opportunities that we may not otherwise have.