I Think I Can – Valuing Information Pt 2


Some weeks ago (2013-10-7 to be exact) I posted this about trying to assign value to information. Thanks to the discussions the post generated on Linkedin and on this blog I realised I was approaching the issue from the wrong angle.  Doug Laney (of Gartner & the Center for Infonomics) and Juerg Hagmann (of itopia) get special mentions for really steering me in the right direction.

Let me start by saying that I completely disavow whatever it was I said in the closing paragraph of my previous post on this topic.

The mistake I made was that I was looking at the issue from an Information Management point of view. I really should have stepped back 20+ years in my career and applied an accounting thought process. I think we’re all pretty much agreed that information is an asset; if that’s the case then the real challenge lies in determining which class of assets information belongs to. The challenge is complicated because:

a)       Not all information is used the same way;

b)       Some information can fall into multiple classes;

c)       Information is not depleted as it’s consumed (retention/disposition adds a different layer of complexity);

d)       It could be argued that, for some types of information, value increases with time unlike more “traditional” assets whose value depreciates;

e)       Some of the future economic benefit may actually be the avoidance of future economic sanctions or penalties.

For those of you not familiar with what an asset is (the accounting version):

  • It’s a resource (may or may not be tangible) that is under the organization’s control or ownership;
  • It’s a resource that will provide future economic benefit;
  • Assets are carried on the Balance Sheet, not the Income Statement;
  • Quoted from the IFRS Framework “An asset is a resource controlled by the enterprise as a result of past events and from which future economic benefits are expected to flow to the enterprise.”

Some responses to the original post posited that information only has value if it’s being used. Uhm, no.

Whether it’s being used or not information has value. Think about earth moving equipment; whether it’s sitting idle or grading a road it still has value. The value of the asset is based upon acquisition costs and future or potential economic value, not actual economic value. Information that’s not being used is not valued at zero; it is merely an asset that isn’t currently generating any economic benefit. If people really thought that then why are they loathe to toss out all those documents they’ve been hoarding for years but haven’t looked at (Ha!!! I got you, you information hoarders). Prior year budgets, completed contracts, old operating procedures, paid invoices, etc. all have potential future economic benefit. That’s why we keep them. They also have potential benefit to our foes if they contain a “smoking gun” which is why we ought to dispose of them as soon as we are legally able and are certain that they provide no positive benefit to us.

Assigning value to information is possible, but it requires understanding how the information was acquired and how it’s going to be used. You can’t use the same metrics and methods for a purchased subscriber list destined for telemarketing as you would for HR policies developed by internal resources.

I tell my clients to focus on high value, high risk information, but without understanding the acquisition and intended use of the information, there’s no real way to determine which information is high value and/or high risk.

Help Wanted – Testing a Survey


I am putting together a survey for an upcoming project and I need your help. I am testing two things: 1) whether or not PollDaddy is a reasonable tool to use, and; B) the survey. You can send feedback via the survey (last question), via this blog post, or directly to me via email (walkerchrisp@gmail.com). Please feel free to pass this on. Depending on the responses received, I may use the results to come up with a clever hypothesis, or not.

The project, as originally defined by the client, is to develop a records management strategy. However, between the client and I we’ve redefined the project to encompass all information and support corporate objectives (I’ve actually read and understood their corp strategy docs). The current phase is to document the current state of records and information management, come up with a target state, and develop an implementation roadmap to get from here to there.

The intended audience for the survey is the entire organization (they’re not really that huge). Survey completion will be mandatory for all directors and above, for everyone else it is optional. My point with doing this survey is to have information that is directly applicable to the client, rather than relying on industry or generic information.

The survey http://christianpwalker.polldaddy.com/s/records-information-management-what-you-know-what-you-think

 

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Shacking Up – IT and RIM In Love


Back in June (2013) during the ARMA Canada Regional Conference I attended a pretty good session delivered by Emily Gusba (Information Management Lead, GCDOCS Implementation at Natural Resources Canada). Emily was accompanied by Trevor Banks and Julie Colgan (ARMA Int’l President, Julie rocked as a last minute walk-on for Debra Power who is all better now). The session, titled Learning IT-ese, was about IT and RIM (Records & Information Management) having to work better, together. Essentially, the point was that RIM had to learn to speak IT.

A couple of weeks ago I had an email exchange with Charmaine Brooks of IMERGE and one of the topics that came up was … wait for it … IT and RIM needing to work better together.

Now, I’m all for IT and RIM working better together, but I don’t mean what you think they (see above) think you think they mean. Simply put, we’re not on the same page. Bear with me a bit …

IT and RIM are both service providers within their organizations, n’est pas? They serve the same clients, though they provide different but complementary services. RIM and IT also have a symbiotic (some would say parasitic, but that’s just mean) relationship with each other. The truth is that one’s not much good without the other.

RIM and IT need to join together, not to serve the purposes of RIM, but to serve the interests of the entire organization. Having RIM sit with IT to explain RIM’s wants/needs (in whatever language they choose) is, in a word, crap. IT and RIM need to approach stakeholders with a joint message; “Your stuff needs managing and governing and we’re the team to do it for you.” Yes, children, RIM and IT need to get together and become a formidable team. They need to approach the cheque-writers (notice Canadian spelling, thank you) as one.

When Marketing wants to migrate from one platform to another, RIM/IT needs to be in those meetings TOGETHER. When HR wants to implement a new HRMS, IT/RIM needs to be there to make sure all that information flows correctly throughout its lifecycle.

When I talk about RIM I don’t mean the RIM we knew from the paper days; I mean what RIM can and should be in 2013 and beyond. Drop the Records reference and focus on the Information and the Management, regardless of the medium that information is created or stored in. Join with IT to become IM&T (the M comes before the T because you need the management bits before the tools) and provide your clients the information services and governance that they need. In some organizations there still is, and always will be, the need for the Records part of RIM. However, the Records function really needs to be a subsidiary of the IM&T group.

If IT provides the plumbing, and information is akin to water, then RIM performs as the treatment facility. IM&T not only gets the information to you, they make sure that the information you get is clean and safe. (Sorry about the crappy analogy.)

Yes, RIM and IT need to work together, but not as two different parts of the organization. They need to join and serve the organization as a single unit. I’m not saying that RIM professionals ought to become developers or systems analysts. Nor am I advocating for IT professionals to become Records Managers or Archivists. What I am saying is that the IM&T TEAM needs to incorporate roles that address the Information Management and Governance needs as much as the Information Technology needs. Separating RIM from IT hasn’t really worked all that well after all, has it?

Big Buckets of Stuff


Over the last couple of days I’ve seen/heard some comments that Big Buckets don’t work well in Records Management. Uhm, you’re doing it wrong.

I suspect that a large part of the issue is that classification models are too granular and too tightly coupled to the retention schedule. I’ve been involved in a couple of projects where this was the case. One client understood this, made the necessary adjustments, and achieved success. The other client … held steadfastly to granular, overly complex schedules and models, and is only now (4+ years later) re-examining their original plan.

You wanna make big buckets work? Here’s some simple stuff you need to do:

  • Simple, function based classification models;
  • Uncouple classification from retention;
  • Automate & hide RM tasks from users (they know what they’re working on and don’t give a rat’s ass about RM – I know, hard to believe);
  • Classify on capture/creation;
  • Check out the cool diagram;
  • Review periodically.

Note: During a Google Hangout yesterday (featuring @cawprhyd, @tchernik, @lllivingston, and some others whose twitter id’s I don’t have handy) the subject of disposition reviews for automated disposition came up. My position is pretty simple – you don’t need them. Sort of. If you assume that classification and retention have been agreed prior to implementation, and that content is classified up front, there is no need to review. Of course, this works only on a day forward basis and requires that whatever tools you have in place can do the legal hold and suspend disposition processing / time clock when needed. You really should follow the twitterers that I’ve id’d here – they’re pretty smart.

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Book of PHIGs – Introduction Draft


A while back I mentioned that I was going to try to write a book. Well, I’ve started it at last. Between losing my job and spending time at the cabin I’ve not really been motivated or focused. I’ve been spending my time looking for work, but also enjoying rural life at my cabin. I have also found that this writing thing is a lot harder than it looks. Anyways, here’s a draft of the introduction to my as yet untitled book of PHIGs. Let me know what you think.

I used to think that people were an organization’s most important resource, but I don’t think that’s the case any longer. You see, some things have changed over the years: 1) Organizations put more time and effort into making sure they have the right information than whether or not they have the right people; 2) Missing key information causes more consternation than when a key person is missing (vacation, prison, dead, etc.); 3) Organizations will happily jettison people they think are no longer required, but hold on to useless information for eternity; 4) Organizations don’t pay the people that manage information nearly enough.

If a person unexpectedly leaves their job the organization copes and moves on. If key information vanishes right before a planning cycle … different story. So why do organizations suck so bad at managing information like the asset it is? I don’t know and I’m not going to try to figure it out. This book is more about helping organizations stop sucking at managing information. As for better pay for information management people … fight your own battles people.

What is Information Governance?

Information governance is all the rules, regulations, legislation, standards, and policies with which we need to comply when we create, share, and use information. Governance is mandated internally and externally. Done correctly (i.e.: holistically), information governance allows organizations to conduct business better and meet all their information related obligations while minimizing risk. Done incorrectly (i.e.: in a silo’d manner), information governance may help organizations met obligations and reduce risk, but business efficiency is sacrificed.

Why do Information Governance?

We can find everything we have, we just don’t know if we have everything we’re supposed to find.

The above was a statement made by a director at my first ever Enterprise Content Management gig in 2006. Back then I don’t think the idea of Information Governance (IG) went far beyond IT security and perhaps Service Level Agreement (SLA) management. Even today, IG is not really thought of in an holistic way, applied to managing all aspects of an organization’s information assets.

In order to make the most effective and efficient use of information, it needs to be properly managed and governed from cradle (creation / capture) to grave (destruction / archiving). Holistic information governance makes organizations info-efficient by providing the means to keep what’s needed and legally dispose of what’s no longer necessary. Holistic information governance results in faster, better decisions, reduced information related risks, reduced ediscovery costs, and reduced information storage costs.

Principles of Holistic Information Governance

The first thing you need to understand as you read the PHIGs is that no distinction is drawn between records and non-records. From a business execution perspective the difference is irrelevant, from an evidentiary perspective it’s minimal since any information you have can be used against you in proceedings.

Whether the information is structured, semi-structured, or unstructured (there`s no such thing) makes no difference. Format and storage location are similarly unimportant to the PHIGs, as are the devices (personal or corporate) used to create or edit the information. The only thing that matters is whether or not the information is needed by the organization to either conduct business or meet obligations.

The PHIGs are really based on understanding how an organization uses information to conduct business. Understanding has to happen at the micro (department, process) level and at the macro level to be truly useful. Not all information is equal for all organizational stakeholders; therefore it cannot be governed the same way across the entire organization.

The PHIGs are not an information approach to information governance; they are a business approach to information governance. The intent of the PHIGs is to help organizations analyze their information assets and apply the right level of governance based on how the information is used / needed to conduct business.

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