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The Information Governance Conference 2017: Ready For Impact

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Information Coalition: Resources For Your Enterprise Information Success.

Records Disrupted: Blockchain as a Transformative Force

Authors: Alan Pelz-Sharpe (Deep Analysis) & Steve Weissman (Holly Group)


If records and content management issues such as security, privacy, and compliance seem everlasting, that's because they are! What aren't everlasting though, are the so-called information governance "technologies" we use to bring these matters to heel.

In recent decades, we have cycled through imaging, document management, records management, content management, and endless combinations of the above – only to learn that these, really, are business disciplines, not technical tools.

We have also learned that the effectiveness of these disciplines depend entirely upon best-practices that are so extraordinarily similar as to be essentially identical (e.g., approaches to meta-tagging, etc.). So you would think, that at some point, some new technology would emerge that would enable us to bring these solution stacks together and help us unify our information strategies.

Well guess what? That day is … tomorrow!

Next-Gen Governance, Thy Name is Blockchain

The new technology in question is called blockchain, which actually does exist today and is best known as the engine powering the alternative digital currency Bitcoin. Tomorrow, though, it is likely to utterly transform the way that we approach information security, privacy, compliance, and many of our other infogov bugaboos.

In simple terms, blockchain adds a new, non-repudiable, irreversible, cryptographically-secure block to the chain of custody every time a bit of critical information is touched. (See figure below.)

Fundamentally a peer-to-peer technology, blockchain decentralizes control and verification of the custody chain. This, plus the presence of hashing at its core, eliminates the ability for something to ever be tampered with without being detected.

The Game Will Be Changed – Forever

To be sure, the description presented above is a gross simplification of what blockchain is and how it works. And that's OK, because the point of this piece isn't to dissect the underlying technology, but rather to alert you to the potential it has to disrupt our current methods of protecting, updating, auditing, and reporting on information.

Consider the power blockchain has to upend the way:

  • transportation companies document the content and ownership of that content in their container ships and oil tankers and 18-wheelers
  • law firms ensure the integrity of depositions, courtroom transcripts, and client case files
  • hospitals and medical practices to share and secure patient records
  • public companies to administer shareholder voting

It's true that at least some of these organizations are handling these functions just fine at present, but you can't tell me that they wouldn't jump at the chance to bolster their records management to a level approaching inviolable if given the chance.

Maybe …

And maybe that's the question we should leave off with right now: just how near or far is that chance from where we are today? At present, no one knows, and it will be some time before the eternal issues of economics, technology, and risk are understood well enough to prompt forward motion.

One thing is very clear, however: blockchain is real, it is here to stay, and it will disrupt records and information management as we know them. It may not be for everyone, but how will you know it's not for you if you don't start paying it some attention?

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Understanding The Information Strategist

Understanding The Information Strategist
The world of associations and groups that serve the enterprise information sector currently looks something like this:

Each association and group has a body of knowledge and a specific profession, that leverages enterprise information, and focuses on that specific profession (e.g. Records Managers are served by ARMA, ECM is served by AIIM, Privacy Professionals by IAPP, etc.). The Information Coalition serves a gap in this structure that isn't quite visible in our typical understanding of associations and groups, let me show it to you...

You can find the gap with me by asking some very simple questions:

  • Which group sets organizational policy?
  • Which group is "in charge" of information?
  • Who coordinates between the various roles?


Who is it that does that cross functional work that aligns enterprise information policy and structure across disciplines? In some companies it's the CIO, in others it's the CTO, in many others (I daresay most), it's no one at all. There's the huge gap. We call the people that fill that gap, whatever their official title, an information strategist.

It's the information strategist, and the people that are de facto Information Strategists, that the Information Coalition serves, and we believe that the real picture of where things are going is something akin to this:

We believe that the information strategist's role is incredibly challenging and incredibly important, whatever their official title may be (CIO, CTO, CIGO, Information Manager, Records Manager, Privacy Director, etc.).

The deep knowledge of the associations and groups that cover our broad sector should be cherished and honored; but let's be clear - we aren't that. The information strategist needs to have knowledge across disciplines, a bit of everything. The information strategist needs to have knowledge about how to align the various disciplines. This is where we serve and it shows in how we operate.

What many don't know is that we invite as many of the groups you see above to speak, present, and display at The Information Governance Conference. A few have taken us up on that offer (ARMA has in the past, the ICRM board has joined us, and IAPP and the PDF Association will be joining us this year).

Unfortunately, some have decided to not take us up on our offer, viewing us instead as competition. We'd like to clear the air and help everyone better understand our positioning, so that we can all move forward, together, and help our various professions advance, together. Consider this an open and public call to any and all of the aforementioned groups (and any we might have missed) to come and join us this year. We are paying for the costs of their registration and their tables (which we are charged for by the convention center) ourselves, that's how deep our commitment to this cross-functional work is.

As for the Information Coalition, we're continuing to gain momentum and are growing at a breakneck pace, not because we are fighting against the disciplinary focused associations. We're growing because we are enhancing their offerings, providing guidance on how to move from the tactical roles of a specific discipline into the broad role of an information strategist. If you're seeing your role shift towards the role of an "information strategist", join us, our basic membership is free (and we're committed to your success) and ALSO join the association that serves your specific domain of knowledge, we all have a role to play in the future of our professions.

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