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Evidence-Based Information Governance

We Don’t Know Ourselves

Imagine that you want to lose weight. You have tried cutting back, but it hasn’t really helped. Maybe you should get a little more exercise. Maybe you should eat less fat. Or is it sugar? Greek yogurt is supposed to help. Am I really drinking enough coconut water? Who knows? So you mention it to your doctor, or make an appointment with a dietician, or perhaps sign up with a club or clinic that specializes in weight loss. What is the first thing that they ask you to do? Keep a food log. A diary. Write down what you eat, record the exercise you do, and then report back in a couple of weeks so they can give you a customized recommendation.

Great! You have a made a positive decision to take charge of your health.

The first day you are on top of it, and even pretty honest. That corned beef hash that you accidentally ate at the diner when you stopped in for coffee? In the diary. The late-night bowl of sugary flakes? In the diary. Day two, only the good stuff goes in the diary, and a few days later you are still making a half-hearted attempt until finally, you just find yourself scribbling down a bunch of made up stuff in the waiting room moments before your next appointment.

Sound familiar?

For decades, the self-reported diary has been the primary research tool for studying and measuring our eating, sleeping, and other behaviors; the foundation of efforts to help us change those behaviors. But, it doesn’t really work. It is a fantasy.

The Quantified Self

New technology offers a different approach. In the past few years we have spent millions of dollars on a host of devices and apps that passively track our behaviors. Products from FitBit, Nike, Jawbone, Garmin and others. The theory of this technology, or movement (called “The Quantified Self” by some), is that more data –  and more accurate data –  about our behavior will help us understand ourselves better, and thus provide a foundation and methodology for improving ourselves.

Today’s technology tracks our steps, sleep patterns, communication habits, and more. Tomorrow’s technology will automatically log the food we eat, its caloric and nutritional components, and its effect on our bodies. This passive tracking of data clearly is a more realistic approach for us fragile, distracted, willpower-exhausted humans. The machine collects the data in clever way. The algorithms automate the analysis of the data to give us insight into our habits and patterns, and help us track our progress towards a goal.

Of course this approach to problems –  any kind of problem –  is de rigueur. We know it as Big Data and it is prescribed as a solution to everything from unemployment to world hunger.

We are bringing the Quantified Life philosophy to companies, governments, and to entire nations. Tomorrow we will have the Quantified Organization, with the promise that decisions based on tradition and superstition are replaced by decisions based on facts and evidence.

The Quantified Organization

It is easy to be cynical about Big Data. Sometimes I am. But mostly I get it and I believe it. Clearly it raises a host of business, policy, legal, ethical, and societal issues. In any case, it doesn’t matter whether I get it or not: it will be the way that we function as organizations –  and increasingly, as individuals –  moving forward.

The idea that we should make decisions based on facts or evidence as opposed to tradition, intuition, and superstition of course derives from the Enlightenment and the scientific method itself. But even in areas where you might expect that this approach is already baked in, there has been a push to focus on the evidence. In the 1990s, for example, the concept of “evidence-based medicine” (or “evidence-based practice”) was introduced into the medical field and has since taken hold as an operating philosophy in branches of medicine from optometry to dentistry.

Evidence-based practice is defined as:

Applying the best available research results (evidence) when making decisions about health care. Health care professionals who perform evidence-based practice use research evidence along with clinical expertise and patient preferences. Systematic reviews (summaries of health care research results) provide information that aids in the process of evidence-based practice.

If the practice of medicine  -  which has embraced the scientific method for over a century – can benefit from a heightened focus on evidence-based decisions and policy, then surely there are other practices that could benefit from it as well. Any come to mind?

How about Information Governance?

Evidence-Based Practice and Information Governance

Today in IG we make so many decisions, and craft so many policies, based on nothing more that tradition and superstition. This is especially prevalent in the records and information management (RIM) facet of IG, but it exists elsewhere as well. Why do we have 1000 categories in our records retention schedule? Because that’s the way the last guy did it. Because we inherited the schedule from a company we acquired. Because Janice liked it that way. Because that’s the right way. Because that’s what makes the most sense to me. Because that’s what my old boss told us to do. Because that is what the consulting company sold us.

Where is the evidence?

What is true?

Are these justifications based on anything more than tradition, superstition, or office politics?

I propose a new focus for IG practitioners – a focus on Evidence-Based Information Governance. This philosophy should be embedded in everything we do in IG. It is egregious that we wave our hands magically and use purely anecdotal evidence to create fear around information risk. The risk of a spoliation charge in a litigation, for example. How often does it happen? What is the risk of it happening? Go look it up for yourself.

We need to bring evidence into the practice of IG. We need evidence to quantify value. To quantify risk. Evidence to make decisions about how much time, money and effort we should put into managing specific kinds of information.

It is shameful that today, in 2014, this is the exception rather than the rule in IG.

Today we have incredible tools that can easily shed light on our information to give us the visibility and the evidence we need to make good decisions. Go take a look at the providers who support the IGI as an example, as a starting point.

Anyway this post is getting a little long.

But I am passionate about this idea, and will write and work to advance this idea.

Let me know what you think.


Tagged: evidence-based information governance, Information Governance, technology, the quantified organization

Pulling out the red pencil: one more last time on the definition of Information Governance?

Yesterday I published my first blog post on LinkedIn about the most fascinating subject known to people-kind: the definition of information governance. Believe me, this wasn’t my first blog post on the topic, just the first time I had published on LinkedIn. Anyway, in the post I discussed the definition we are advancing at the Information Governance Initiative and talked a little about my history with IG. My post came in the midst of some great back and forth among folks like , , and  on Twitter and great blog posts  by George, James, John, Laurence and others about the core concepts of IG. Who knows if anyone outside this circle finds the subject as fascinating as us, but what the hell, long tail and all that.

Anyway, today George published a thoughtful critique of the definition. Earlier in the day I was reading about a back and forth between a New York Times columnist and Walmart that has gone viral. It’s pretty interesting and funny (I mean the exchange, not the underlying issues being discussed) and feels like an important moment in how social media is radically changing the way that organizations interact with the media outlets who cover them. In any case, I was inspired (not that my output is “inspired) to steal the technique, and pulled out my virtual red pencil to respond to George’s post,  hopefully with less snark that the Walmart exchange. I’ve never met George but I’m sure we are almost certainly much, much closer in our positions that the NYT columnist and the Walmart PR flack. Below is the relevant portion of George’s post, and my response. You can read the whole post here.

The Definition of Information Governance Debated


Tagged: compliance, definitions, E-Discovery, Information Governance

What is a Photocopier?

Pretty entertaining, and also from a case that is also interesting from an Information Governance perspective.

“There is no harm in keeping tiny emails”

Just a quick post –  came across this article when trying to fix a configuration issue with Apple Mail and Gmail, and I thought it nicely summed up the attitude I encounter from IT and others in our information governance engagements. Ask an attorney sometime if there really is “no harm in keeping tiny emails around in this age of ever-expanding storage space.” The drug dealers of the IG world have really done an incredible job convincing the addicts that the drug has no downside.

One of Gmail’s perks is a ridiculous amount of storage space, so Google has set it up to highly encourage archiving your email instead of having to make the decision to delete just some of it. After all, you never know if that rainy day will come next month or four years from now, and there’s no harm in keeping tiny emails around in this age of ever-expanding storage space.

http://www.macworld.com/article/2033842/make-mail-and-gmail-play-nice.html

More often that not, here’s what happens on that “rainy day,” in a depressing office park somewhere in the suburbs:

The company spent $900,000 to produce an amount of data that would consume less than one-quarter of the available capacity of an ordinary DVD.

RAND study on e-discovery, 2012

Now, folks outside of the IG and e-discovery bubble might reasonably think that, hey if there is ever a problem, I can just start deleting emails then, right?

Here’s a couple more quotes to consider.

Court Orders Mirror-Imaging of Personal Computers for Purpose of Preservation

Court Orders Production of Five Years of Content from Facebook, MySpace for Opposing Counsel’s Review

And, my favorite

Plaintiff Sanctioned for Burning Personal Computer


Tagged: compliance, E-Discovery, Information Governance, information technology, technology

Let’s Celebrate Global Information Governance Day

Thursday February 20th, 2014 is the second annual Global Information Governance Day. We established #GIGD to raise awareness of information governance across the globe. See the Wikipedia entry for more information.

Success in information governance can only be achieved by challenging and changing the way we see information. This is why Global Information Day is useful: it will help to raise awareness of the critical importance of information governance.

As you celebrate Global Information Governance Day with your friends and family, here are some key points to remember:

  1. Over half of the information many organizations create and keep is redundant, outdated junk.
  2. Keeping this digital junk around only wastes capital that could be deployed elsewhere – to create jobs, for example – and unnecessarily harms the environment through massive electricity waste.
  3. The failure to manage burgeoning digital information is a demonstrable threat to the civil and criminal justice system due to the out-of-control costs of electronic discovery. Many cases and investigations are settled rather than properly adjudicated simply because the cost of finding and producing digital evidence is unreasonably high.
  4. The global failure to properly classify unstructured information is represents a growing threat to individual privacy. Every day your private information and mine is at risk of theft and unauthorized disclosure by the companies and governance agencies because they lack consistent and cost-effective techniques to separate personally identifiable information from non-private information.

How can you celebrate Global Information Governance Day? Here are some ideas:

  • Chip away at your email inbox to try and achieve Inbox Zero.
  • Clean up and shut down an old departmental shared drive, just for fun.
  • Drink some herbal tea, read Zen Buddhism for Dummies, and try not to panic when you think about how big the problem is at your organization.
  • Take six or seven hours and try to explain to your friends and family, what exactly do you do for a living again anyway?
  • Participate in the first annual Global Information Governance Day Twitter chat.

In honor of Global Information Governance Day, I will be participating in a Twitter chat hosted by @RSDig at 11 am EST on February 20th, 2014 along with several other information governance experts. Hashtag is #GIGD. See you there.

In Review: The 5 Most Powerful People of 2013

Boy walking through the woods in Saratoga Springs

‘Tis the season for lists. The time of year we enumerate the best and worst of everything. Except, of course, the trend of putting everything into lists. That goes unenumerated. But okay, I will play. Here is my list of the 5 most powerful people of 2013. Let’s call it the Power List. The list of movers and shakers who really made a difference this year.

1. The person who read an article online, watched a YouTube video, read a tweet, or saw a Facebook post, and were seized by a powerful impulse to show how smart, funny, loved, insightful, or right they are by posting a snarky, smarmy, sappy, religious, political, angry, or edgy comment, but who did not.

2. The person who helped a homeless person learn to code but did not mount a social media or Kickstarter campaign about it, and did not make a bokeh filled, low contrast, high resolution DSLR Vimeo video with of the moment pop music soundtrack that darn it, despite your best efforts, make you feel . . .  something?

3. The marketer who lay in bed awake night after night, thinking there has to be way way to give our product a sustainability, STEM, social justice, girl power, organic, holistic, or dammit at least something to do with cats angle, but then slowly, painfully came to the ringing bell realization that sometimes a cotter pin is just a cotter pin and got back to work.

4. The grandmother who spends 4 hours a day bringing her grandchild to school. One of my children goes to a charter school that is located in one of New York’s poorest neighborhoods. Many of the children in the school have the odds stacked against them in every other area of their lives. One of my son’s classmates lives in even poorer neighborhood with failing schools that is two hours of walking, busing, and subway-ing away. Her grandmother takes this trip every day, twice a day with her. Their day starts at 5:00am. She does this because she believes that a good education is the best chance for her granddaughter to even the odds. The daily investment that she makes – every day, with no excuses – will not pay off for years. But she makes it anyway.

5. The man dying of cancer. A very close friend of mine, about a decade older than me, is dying of cancer. He was a college professor, and has legions of former students who – due to his honest, passionate, and fearless method of teaching – love him and see him as someone who has profoundly affected their lives. My friend has been practicing what I call “radical transparency” on Facebook. He posts several times a day about all the good and interesting things that are happening in his world, in addition to notes about his health and prognosis. “I can’t afford to go dark on this thing,” he told me, referring to his outlook on his health. Like all of us, he worries about the superficiality and value of Facebook. But here’s what I see: a man sharing his experience in an honest and human way that provides his friends and his “Friends’ with a model for dealing with mortality. And that makes him powerful.

Working Down on the iPhone Farm

On Friday I stood in line with 9 million other chumps (well, somewhere between 9 million and 4.5 million) at the Apple store to get a new iPhone. I learned a lot about what I am calling iPhone Farming –  the growing, harvesting, and selling of iPhones to the secondary market overseas. I was virtually the only non-Chinese person in a line of 500 or more. Anyway, read the whole store here, at Law Technology News.

The iPhone 5s logotext is seen in the window of the Apple store in SoHo, New York City on Friday September 20, 2013.

Window display in the Apple store in SoHo, New York City on Friday September 20, 2013.


Tagged: Apple, China, iPhone 5s

Special Bonus Video: What’s Your Favorite Records Management Joke?

As you know, we recently published the five central videos from our interview series, “5 Questions About Information Governance in 5 Minutes.” In this series, we asked 30 IG experts a number of definitional and serious questions about IG. Our experts were prepared for that. However, right at the end of the interview, I slipped in one surprise question. Since many of our interviewees have experience with records management, and records management isn’t known as the most light-hearted, spontaneous profession , I thought I would ask, “What’s your favorite records management joke?”

So that’s what I did. I love this video because it shows that this community has a great sense of humor and does not take itself so seriously –  a sure sign of health.

Next week we will be posting full interviews with each interviewee as well. You can also check out the six videos we have published so far on our YouTube channel.

And by the way, if you know any good records management jokes, please send them to me, or add them in the comments.


Tagged: ARMA, comedy, compliance, defensible deletion, E-Discovery, humor, Information Governance, Information governance videos, information technology, interview series, records management, records management joke, speaking, video

Happy Global Information Governance Day!

Today (February 21st, 2013) is the first annual Global Information Governance Day. This special day was created as an international celebration of all things information governance. Through establishing and recognizing Global Information Governance Day, we hope to raise awareness of information governance across the globe. See the Wikipedia entry for more information on this important day.

As we define it, information governance is a comprehensive program of controls, processes, and technologies designed to help organizations maximize the value of information assets while minimizing associated risks and costs.

Success in information governance can only be achieved by challenging and changing the way we see information. This is why Global Information Day is important: it will help to raise awareness of the critical importance of information governance.

As you celebrate Global Information Governance Day with your friends and family, here are some key points to remember:

  1. Most companies (and individuals) create and and store an enormous amount of digital junk.
  2. Over half of the information many organizations create and keep is redundant, outdated junk.
  3. Keeping this digital junk around only wastes capital that could be deployed elsewhere – to create jobs, for example – and unnecessarily harms the environment through massive electricity waste.
  4. The global failure to manage burgeoning digital information is a demonstrable threat to the civil and criminal justice system due to the out-of-control costs of electronic discovery. Many cases and investigations are settled rather than properly adjudicated simply because the cost of finding and producing digital evidence is unreasonably high.
  5. The global failure to properly classify unstructured information is represents a growing threat to individual privacy. Every day your private information and mine is at risk of theft and unauthorized disclosure by the companies and governance agencies because they lack consistent and cost-effective techniques to separate personally identifiable information from non-private information.

How can you celebrate Global Information Governance Day? Here are some ideas:

  • Chip away at your email inbox to try and achieve Inbox Zero.
  • Clean up and shut down an old departmental shared drive, just for fun.
  • Take your IT department out for a drink and find out where the legacy information bodies are really buried.
  • Drink some herbal tea, read Zen Buddhism for Dummies, and try not to panic when you think about how big the problem is at your organization.
  • Take six or seven hours and try to explain to your friends and family, what exactly do you do for a living again anyway?
  • Participate in the first annual Global Information Governance Day Twitter chat.

In honor of Global Information Governance day, I will be participating in a Twitter chat at 11 am EST on February 21, 2013 with several other information governance experts. Click here for more information, and I hope to see you there.

Author: Barclay T. Blair


Tagged: Garth Landers, Global Information Governance Day, holiday, Nuix, RSD, Tamir Sigal

Big Data: Ever Wondered What the “Internet of Things” Looks Like? Here Is the Infographic

Continuing my quest to educate readers about all things information governance, I bring you my new InfoGraphic illuminating a key concept in Big Data: The Internet of Things. You are very welcome.

Barclay T. Blair The Internet of Things

 

Author: Barclay T. Blair