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).
- 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.
- Increases complexity;
- Introduces bottlenecks;
- Prioritizes compliance obligations over getting work done;
- 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.