Governance Sucks but Doesn’t Have To


Governance is the Super Ego to the Id of collaboration.

If you’re an information consumer or producer, governance sucks. Think about it; all you really want to do is get the info you need or pass stuff on to stakeholders. Maybe what you need is to be able to work on something as a group. You try, but you’re info-blocked at every turn. The amount of crap one must put up with in order to create or consume relevant information, or to collaborate, is enough to drive one to drink (but in a responsible manner & you take a cab home).

Let’s start with something simple … You want to create a document & share it with stakeholders. Easy, right? Not! It used to be that the biggest challenge was making sure the content was appropriate to the purpose. Now you also have to worry about whether or not the stakeholders have the rights to see the content, how long the content will be relevant for, how many copies there are (or will be), whether or not the content could be relevant in legal proceedings, and where the hell to classify it (what is this “classify” thing, anyways?”).

Governance is all the rules, regulations, legislation, standards, and policies with which we need to comply when we create, share, and use information. Don’t misunderstand me; it’s not the results or purposes of governance that annoy me, it’s how governance is applied. The in-your-face, gavel banging, fanaticism driven approach of many of the legal, risk, and compliance crowd is the issue.

Many of these folks are trying to manage electronic content the same way that paper has been managed; that’s like trying to perform “brain surgery too, mama, with a monkey wrench” (props to those who identify the song, band, and album without using any search engines).

The Good:

  • Facilitates finding what you need when you need it;
  • Reduces legal risk;
  • Preserves history and corporate memory;
  • Secures information from inappropriate exposure;
  • Facilitates good decision making.

The Bad:

  • Increases complexity;
  • Introduces bottlenecks;
  • Prioritizes compliance obligations over getting work done;

The Ugly:

  • Turns users into Records Managers;
  • Users circumvent the rules;
  • Perception is we’re making progress, reality is we’re not.

Why There’s Hope

If everybody would just chill for five minutes, we could get this under control in a manner that makes sense and provides the benefits that governance ought to provide. Even though the same rules apply, electronic content cannot be managed the same way as physical content.

  • Users aren’t Records Managers, nor do they want to be.
  • Policies aren’t the problem, procedures are.
  • Pretending social media doesn’t exist won’t have any effect on your obligations.
  • Some governance is better than no governance.
  • It doesn’t have to be perfect, you just need to make a reasonable effort.

Most credible EIM providers (ECM for you dinosaurs) have the tools to implement effective governance in their arsenals. But don’t go to them and ask them to implement governance until you’ve actually sorted out what it is in your organization. It’s your task to develop the policies, it’s our task to advise you on how best to develop and implement the procedures.

When you and I sit down and talk about governance, if the only team you bring to the table is Legal/Risk/Compliance, I am going to shut the conversation down in about two minutes. The only way that I can help you implement governance that doesn’t suck is to deal directly with all the affected stakeholders (groups, not individuals). One of the toughest collaboration challenges an organization faces may be trying to define a truly effective governance framework that serves the needs of all affected stakeholders. If those stakeholders don’t have a voice, it’s not gonna happen.

If you’re running a real EIM solution and your users have to think about where to file content, you’ve mucked up your deployment. It doesn’t matter if you go big bucket or not, a good deployment uses auto-classification, profiles, workflow, etc. to take the governance burden off the users and put it squarely on the system. If you think classifications and retention schedules are the same thing, there’s not an EIM solution on the planet that’s gonna help you and you’re not an Information Professional.

You’ve done governance right when:

  • Users focus on their jobs, nothing else;
  • You get defensible disposition and it’s implemented;
  • People find the information they need, when they need it;
  • Information leaks are down to an acceptable level (face it, it’s not going to get to zero);
  • Your corporate counsel can focus on attacking instead of defending;
  • Social media doesn’t scare you;
  • The only people thinking about governance are those who are paid to.

3 Comments on “Governance Sucks but Doesn’t Have To

  1. all fine Chris, agreed. do also think of the bottom line and the big picture: Governance is just making decsions about information mgmt (the HOW): Governance provides the means for an organization to make comprehensive and balanced decisions in the instnces (only) where independent groups and stakeholders cannot or should not make them.

    if this does not happen, governance is absent. the pieces should come together … Just rebranding existing IM units or adding one o more is not IG.
    the whole must become more than the sum of its parts (Aristotle). the willingness to cooperate and coordinate is low because it’s not conducive to the usual division of labor and culture of short term incentives (even contradictory). It’s all about culture.
    Silos and power tend to persist …ARMA is currently devising a framework for Info Gov professionals (IGP) – follow-up: arma.org/igp.
    See also: http://jhagmann.twoday.net/stories/97003434/

    Like

  2. Pingback: Policies First – Holism in Informaiton Governance | Chris Walker – Info Mgt Nuggets

  3. Well done, Chris. I couldn’t have said it more clearly than you’ve said it here. However, only one input that I would think is important is that IROs have an important part to play in complex large organisations where it is difficult to enforce compliance and create the required culture for IG to succeed. I’m not an IRO but I do think they have a job to enforce compliance. The rest is up to the info governance team to make it work seamlessly without the business even being aware.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: