I just spent the last few days (May 25th – 27th) at the ARMA Canada conference in Calgary. As you’d expect it was great to get together with people that I typically only engage with online. But that’s not the reason I go through the effort and expense of attending. I come to this and other conferences to learn and see what’s new, and maybe make some new connections (that whole networking thing). Unless there’s something really compelling (there wasn’t, for me) I do much of my learning on the trade show floor rather than by attending sessions. I try to figure out what’s new, innovative, and exciting by talking to the vendors and attendees.
- What’s new? Other than RSD’s first appearance (I think) at ARMA Canada, nothing really.
- What’s innovative? Nothing really.
- What’s exciting? Nothing really.
The problem seems to be that the Records Management community is not evolving with the times. Sure, they say “information governance”, but I’m not convinced they know what it means or what the implications are. They talk about social media, but do they use it (there was actually a session during which they were taught to tweet). They talk about cloud but then do nothing about it other than give in to the boogie man prognostications. Shit! Even the younger RM folks are sounding like the older ones who are close to retiring.
Based on what I saw and heard at the conference, I hold no optimism that the state of Records and Information Management will join the 21st century any time soon. RIM professionals are complaining about not being given the dues and respect they deserve (and they DO deserve it) but they have to take it, not wait for it to be handed out. ARMA Canada as an association is not helping. They’ve had pretty much the same content, speakers, and vendors since I went to my first conference in 2008. Yes, the names have changed, but you know what I mean.
I’m not sure how, but ARMA Canada needs to freshen things up a bit. Dump the vendors that do nothing but SharePoint stuff or physical records management; that stuff hasn’t changed since the shelf was invented. Attract vendors that represent the new way of doing business and are influencing and enabling digital transformation of business. Solicit speakers that want to do more than talk about how to build another functional file plan or how to implement an ECM platform. ARMA Canada needs a slate of speakers and vendors that represent a balance of what today’s realities are, and what the very near future will hold for managing information.
I’ll wait until I see what the agenda for next year’s conference is, but if it’s pretty much like this year’s this is likely my last ARMA Canada conference for a while. And if things don’t change fast, the RIM profession will be further marginalized, and I’ll likely contribute to the further marginalization; not because we dislike RIM and RIM professionals, but because the rest of us have to move forward to succeed.
Just to add a little positivity …
Over dinner with a friend of mine I got a good look at Oracle’s Document Cloud (I think that’s the name). It’s Oracle’s offering to the EFSS (I HATE that name) market. It’s really, really slick. The version I saw (not sure if it’s generally available yet) looks as easy to use as Box (which is what I use for my business). I know a couple of things about where Oracle is going with it, but not a ton. One thing that I do really like about it is that it sits on top of Oracle Web Center Content so all the security, metadata, workflow, and retention are taken care of. By the way, for those of you who care; Oracle’s Web Center Content is likely the best kept secret amongst ECM platforms. It’s a secret because Oracle really sucks at marketing it.
Image taken from http://www.a-tips-of-life.com/tag/awake/
This is the second case study type thing I’m trying. It’ll likely be the last for a while as I have nothing left that I can publish without getting sued. Ah, the joys of being an independent consultant. Anyways …
This case study has to do with the project referenced in the two posts linked below. You may want to read them to get a better overall view of the project :
The document I’m sharing is part of a set of four docs that were delivered to the client. The purpose of each document is explained in the case study document.
The client in the case study builds electricity infrastructure; they are heavily regulated. They took the decision a while back to use SharePoint as their ECM pillar (though they don’t really know what ECM is). They also don’t have an Information Management strategy, nor any type of dedicated information governance structure. Though they rely heavily on information, and generate tons of intellectual property, they don’t do much about treating information as an asset. As far as they are concerned, information is IT’s problem and the business is just a client.
I was working as a subcontractor with ARC Business Solutions on this project. One of the key contributors to the project and the document was Chris Riley. You can follow Chris on Twitter at https://twitter.com/HoardingInfo. We knew early on in the project that the client was in ECM trouble and needed help. Though not part of the project mandate we wrote the docs up anyway (No. We didn’t bill the client extra.).
Without further ado … click the link and check it out: Managing Information at client name.
Feedback is appreciated.
The image in this post is my first attempt at visually representing the Principles of Holistic Information Governance. Click on it for the original PHIGs post and a larger version of the image.
Chris Riley, along with Shadrach White, is a co-author of Enterprise Content Management with Microsoft SharePoint.
I’m working on a graphic to represent the PHIGs. Which do you prefer?
Earlier this year I completed an assessment of Alfresco for a university client. The university licensed Alfresco several years ago and did not have much success. They hired me to find out why, and what to do about it. The options they wanted to look at were to continue on with Alfresco or switch to SharePoint. An option they weren’t willing to consider was a cloud based option. I gave them one anyways, based on Box. Unfortunately I was asked to remove that option from the final report. Oh well.
While the platform in question was Alfresco, I can’t stress enough that the failure had nothing to do with the platform. Under the circumstance nothing would have succeeded. You can read a bit about it in an earlier post here.
I’m trying something a little different; because of my altruistic nature I am making the final report available as a downloadable PDF. I figure there’s stuff in it that many could use, and perhaps critique that would be helpful.
I want to thank Laurence Hart for his contribution to the report and the overall project. Thanks, Laurence. You can follow Laurence on twitter at https://twitter.com/piewords and check out his blog at http://wordofpie.com/.
Anyways, just follow the link and you ought to get to the report (no fees, no signup, no tracking). Feel free to provide feedback.
University ECM Assessment – I’m using Box to share this content. Please let me know if you have any issues.
Image: “Paris Tuileries Garden Facepalm statue” by Alex E. Proimos – http://www.flickr.com/photos/proimos/4199675334/. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
On September 18 the Information Governance Initiative hosted a twitter chat to discuss their 1st annual report. At some point in the chat I referred to myself as using Guerilla tactics to apply Information Governance practices in client projects.
Question 3 of the chat was “Do you have any active InfoGov projects under way at your organization?” Now, I’m a consultant so for me the question’s really about my clients’ organizations. My answer to the question was “No. My client has biz projects that are being framed by good #infoGov practices.” Followed by my comment “I am turning into an IG Guerrilla Tactician.”
Just because your client doesn’t have IG budget, programs, or projects, doesn’t mean that good IG practices can’t be infused into the projects that are happening.
I have yet to work on an Information Governance project for a client – they just don’t want to hear about it. That doesn’t mean that I execute projects while ignoring IG practices. For example: I am currently working on a couple of SharePoint projects for a client. One project is to develop a site for their regulatory team to build and submit applications to a regulator. The second project is to create and publish field reference manuals. Both of these projects have concrete business objectives; neither has any sort of IG or IM as part of the mandate. In fact, until I got involved no one was even thinking about applying any sort of overarching IG/IM policies or procedures into any of the projects, much less on an organization wide basis.
The client’s environment is rife with poor information governance and management practices:
- Content duplication;
- Emailing attachments instead of links;
- Information silos;
- Keep everything forever;
- No centralized accountability for information;
- Won’t mention the fustercluck that is their SharePoint environment;
- No metadata standards or taxonomy;
- Severely limited search capability;
- No use of automation for capture, tagging, sharing, or routing of information;
- A rudimentary file plan and retention schedule that is largely ignored;
The funny thing is that many people at the client know that much of what they’re doing is wrong, even if they don’t know why it’s wrong. What they don’t know is how to eliminate the bad practices and replace them with good practices (forget “best practices” they really only exist in theory). They also don’t know, in all cases, what a good practice is.
We start with Principles of Holistic Information Governance (PHIGs). The clients like them because they’re common sense and written in English; they’re also loose enough so they can be adjusted for the business being supported / addressed. We also use an iterative approach to designing and building the solution (it’s very agile-like) that involves all the major business and technical stakeholders (the pure tech stuff takes place off-line). Our focus in these projects, beyond solving the problem, is really on two things: 1) eliminating waste (effort and info); 2) delivering a solid user experience. We also impose a lot of rules around how information is created, managed, and delivered. To illustrate:
- Thou shalt send links, not attachments (client VPN is an obstacle that’s being dealt with in a separate project);
- Thou shalt use versioning rather than sending more copies with “v2_0_3_d_SOMEGUY_Edits” in the file name (change mgt and training required);
- Thou shalt label thy contributions appropriately (we’ll help by implementing some workflows and forms);
- Thou shalt not make copies when thou needst them not (metadata and user roles will help users find what they need, proper backup & restore will be implemented);
- Thou shalt not keep thy stuff indefinitely (ah, retention and disposition policies will finally be enforced);
- Thou shalt not facilitate unauthorized access to information in thy care and keeping (keep it in the repository, where it can be secured);
- Thy content is not thine, it’s thy employer’s.
As we’re working on things like metadata models, user roles & groups, user interfaces, and other stuff, we’re doing so with the view that we’ll be creating a set of practices that the organization can adopt for all projects going forward. We’ve even got a couple of really hot SharePoint people on the project that are helping us to define repeatable SP practices. There’s only one tiny problem with our approach …
At a recent Steering Committee meeting, our venerable Project Manager invited two guest speakers: 1) Jason – to talk about SP standards and best practices; 2) me – to talk about PHIGs and IM best practices. Jason and I said the same things, albeit focusing on our particular areas of expertise. All was well until the VP of IT realised that while we were doing some really good things on the project, these things were totally under the radar. Much to her credit, instead of demanding that we revert to the client’s methodologies (which were in part responsible for the current situation), she began asking what needed to be done to leverage the good things we’re doing on this project and apply them across the organization.
So what’s next? Well, the client is having me get involved in at least one more of their projects; SharePoint will be the deployment platform and IG will provide a foundation. It’s not a SP or IG project; it’s an HR project that relies on information. Sometime in October Jason and I will be invited to speak to the corporate governance council; Jason will talk about SharePoint and I’ll talk about PHIGs. The whole point of our attendance will be about how to get this heavily regulated client to adopt good practices for managing their information and the technologies they use to access it. Pretty cool, I think (I might even wear a tie).
Sometimes you’ve just got to sneak IG into your clients’ projects the same way that you sneak veggies into a recalcitrant child’s diet.
Over the last few weeks some pretty bright minds have been talking / writing about what Information Governance (IG) is and isn’t. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the restraint to stay out of it. To get some of the background of what’s been going on, read a few posts from these guys (I don’t always agree with them, but I do have a great deal of respect for them and their smarts):
- George Parapadakis (this, this, and this)
- Barclay Blair (this one and this one)
- Laurence Hart (this one and this one and this one, too)
There’s also been a bit of a conversation going on on Twitter involving the folks mentioned above, along with Jeffrey Lewis, Ron Layel, Ron Miller, Bryant Duhon, et moi. Had I been prescient I would have captured / saved the stream and included it here. Oh well.
First things first … the definition of Information Governance I use is the one I wrote: “Information governance is all the rules, regulations, legislation, standards, and policies with which organizations need to comply when they create, share, and use information.”
The thing to remember about IG is that it’s really about policies that put constraints and roadblocks in the way of working with information. Implementing the policies, via procedures, is where value gets added; using the right technologies helps take the burden off of people. Information Governance without appropriate procedures and tools is just not going to work. Don’t even bother to try.
I am definitely in the camp with those who view IG as an overarching thing that covers a vast array of disciplines that determine every aspect of managing, using, storing, sharing, and disposing of information. And therein lies the problem with IG; it is too broad to be of real interest to any single executive in the C-suite, unless that executive’s job is IG and only IG. That said, oversight for IG has to be centralized in order to be effective on a broad scale, and it has to be centralized in a manner that allows no bias.
Putting oversight for IG in the hands of the CMO, the CIO, the CLO, or anyone else in the C-suite, assuming they actually wanted the job, would likely end up biasing IG towards a specific agenda. IG implemented has to be good for the overall business. Granted, there are various drivers, but those drivers cannot be used as justification to sacrifice or jeopardize other business concerns. Does that mean we need a new title in the C-suite? Maybe, maybe not. Personally, I’d like to see the CIO role redefined on a global basis to be the information equivalent of the CFO and let the various disciplines report into it.
If an organization is a litigation magnet for sure that organization needs to do whatever is necessary to reduce the risk and the burden. But it can’t be done in a way that compromises business effectiveness of other parts of the organization. The policies need to be implemented via procedures and tools that support the business moving forward. There is no legitimate reason that one cannot implement litigation risk mitigation that also benefits the rest of the organization. The immediate need may be related to litigation, but the long play has to be holistic. By the same token, getting field manuals to engineers cannot expose the organization to unnecessary risk or exposure.
During the past few weeks there was also talk about splitting out Information Governance and Information Management. The short version is that governance is the policies and management is the procedures. I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with splitting things out like that, but does it make a huge difference when trying to convince clients or execs about the need for governance? I’ve been guilty of using the terms interchangeably, but I’ve made progress so I don’t care. The fact is some of my clients get the shakes when I mention IG, but they’re cool when we talk about IM. The end result is the same except that I have not “educated” the client about the right terminology. Again, who cares? My clients don’t hire me to teach them the right terminology so that they can sound hip when having beverages with the IG illuminati; they hire me to solve problems or leverage information better.
I really like Barclay’s sentiment: it doesn’t matter what you call it as long as the concepts are understood and progress is being made. Ultimately, that’s the bottom line.
We can bang on all we want about IG vs IM or whatever, and continue to struggle to get buy in and move things forward. Or, we can compromise our principles a little (it’s not like it’ll matter in the long run anyways) and focus on telling clients, sponsors, and executives what they need to hear in a way they understand, are comfortable with, and ultimately buy into. As long as I do right by my clients, I personally don’t care whether we call it IG or IM. We can have the philosophical conversations next time we’re gathered at some conference and it’s only us nerds talking.
During the Twitter conversation, Ron Layel asked me if I thought that information is the currency of business. I don’t think so. If an organization has a bunch of cash sitting in the bank, idle, the cash doesn’t expose the organization to risk, and it appreciates in value. If information is just sitting around, it potentially causes risk, and has no value. Information accumulates, morphs, and transmogrifies too fluidly to really be considered currency. To be sure, businesses couldn’t run without information or currency, but unlike information you can fake currency (think about letters of credit, loans, debentures, IPO’s, etc.).
One last little point … peeve, actually … there are vendors out there (hardware, software, services, associations) that tout themselves as Information Governance vendors. They’re not. They may solve portions of what IG is, but they don’t do it all.
A while back I wrote a couple of posts (one and two) about attempting to value information as an asset, carried on the balance sheet. I took a very accounting oriented approach, and I think I’ve made some progress. This post follows, after a fashion, those two previous posts.
During my session (here’s a link to the deck) at the 2014 AIIM conference, someone from the middle of the room respectfully disagreed that information is always an asset. My response at the time was that information is always an asset and that you need to set up a contra account to offset any of the negatives that can happen. For example, a contra account for Accounts Receivable would be Allowance for Bad Debts. You can read more about contra accounts here, on Investopedia.
What I should have said was …
When information reaches the stage where it can harm you, let’s say in litigation, you need to create a contingent liability account in order to capture how much (in dollar terms) you anticipate the exposure to be. Now, I’m not an accountant, but from what I can find out an asset cannot be transformed into a liability (please correct me if I’m wrong). However, assets that expose organizations to financial risk, can be accounted for by using contingent liability accounts. You can read more about contingent liabilities on Investopedia.
The other thing I should have said was that organizations need to evaluate the value:risk ratio of their information periodically. It’s absolutely true that certain types of information don’t age well and expose organizations to risk that is greater than the information’s value. At this point an organization needs to determine whether they will dispose of the information (legally) or commit additional resources to mitigating the risk, in whatever manner is most appropriate (doing nothing is not an option).
So, to the gentleman in the middle of the room; Thank you. Your comments forced me to dig a bit and learn something.
For those of you interested, here’s the presentation to which I am referring …
As some of you may already know, I will be speaking about the Principles of Holistic Information Governance at the AIIM Conference in Orlando (my session is at 2pm on April 3). Here’s a brief preview of what I’ll be talking about.
This is a little story about how the Principles of Holistic Information Governance (the PHIGs) were leveraged to turn a pure Records Management project into something the entire organization, and its stakeholders, could benefit from.
I was approached by a partner to help them out on a project they are working on for a public transportation company. Their project is to put together a new web communication and presence strategy, and to implement it. Where they asked me to help out is on developing a Records Management strategy. The two projects were to be separate from each other since the RM project was really to fill in some gaps in the client being compliant with legislation and in helping them to respond to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests. There was no thought given to integrating the two projects or to looking at how an holistic approach could benefit the entire organization and its stakeholders.
As all good analysts and consultants do, I started gathering as much information about the organization and the projects as I could. The two critical documents that I had access to were the Web Communication project strategy (summary and detailed) and the organization’s 20 year strategic plan and roadmap.
There were obvious tie-ins to linking the RM project and the Web project, but selling them to the organization wasn’t easy as they just didn’t care all that much. They were happy to go forward with identifying what was a record, and subject to FOI, then just firing that content into their RM tool (which they don’t have yet). The real clincher to getting the organization to accept a PHIGged approach was the long term strategic plan. In the plan were articulated six values and five major objectives.
- Customer Service
All six of the values can be directly supported by information, provided it’s properly governed and managed, from cradle to grave.
- Develop Financial Sustainability
- Support and Shape Livable Communities
- Change the Perception of Transit
- Deliver Operational Excellence
- Strengthen our People and Partnerships
Like the values, the objectives will benefit from taking an holistic view of how information lives in the organization.
One of the other things that I did was to review the RM strategy document I was provided and link those objectives to the objectives in the Web Communication strategy and the long term strategy. It’s both funny and sad that folks get so focused on their own view of the world that they don’t see the bigger picture. The RM strategy probably had 85% of what was needed for an organization wide (I’m trying not to use the word “enterprise” too much) information management strategy.
From a technology point of view there will be many different tools used to provide the solutions that the organization will, over time, implement. But, they’ll be underpinned by the PHIGs. The PHIGs are there to help organizations take a look at how and why information exists and affects all relevant stakeholders. The PHIGs aren’t about technology; they’re about business and doing it better by understanding what you need from information.
By reordering and rewording some of the RM strategy objectives, and adding a couple of new ones, we were able to change the focus from an RM project that would provide very limited benefits, to an organization-wide information management program that will benefit all stakeholders. Of course it’ll take longer to get to the end, but at least the client has taken the first step and realized the importance of information to the proper running of the business.
Below is the presentation from my session at the AIIM 2014 conference …
Some of you may be shocked, but I’ve decided to kill the Book of PHIGs. “Why?” you may ask. Even if you don’t, I’ll answer.
My plan was to make the book available electronically via iTunes, Kobo, and Amazon. Have you seen the administrative, contractual, and tax crap that that plan entails? Holy sh*t!!! Now, I’d put up with all that nonsense if I thought that I could make a living selling a book about Information Management; but I doubt it. I mean, how long can one live on dozens of dollars? This doesn’t mean that I have given up on the PHIGs or on making them available to whomever is interested. No; it means that I am changing my approach.
I’m going to take a whitepaper approach to making the PHIGs available. Whether it’s one long whitepaper or a series of per-PHIG whitepapers remains to be seen. I’ll try, as much as possible, to draw on experiences from past and current projects as I write. I won’t be charging anything or asking folks to register for anything in order to download the PHIGs. When something’s ready I’ll announce it on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc., and provide a link. Pretty simple, but I like it that way.
To be honest, I never planned or wanted to make a living from writing the book; my intent all along has been to make a living from leveraging the book into consulting, training, and speaking engagements. For those organisations and people that don’t want / need any of my services, I still wanted to make the PHIGs available because I believe they’re important and that they contain stuff that any organization can use.