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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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Rock, Paper, Scissors – IG Style

In the world of information governance:

  • People … defeat Policies
  • Policies … defeat Litigation
  • Litigation … defeats People

And you can quote me on that!

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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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The Human Face of InfoGov

Solution marketeers and alarmist analysts love to flash the red lights of litigation support and audit compliance when making the case for information governance. But the problem with this is that neither of these reasons speak to the one Really Important Motive that lies at the end of the infogov path:

To better serve/enable/empower people, be they customers, prospects, employees, or other interested parties.

Cases in Point

This point was sadly and forcibly driven home to me in recent months as I cared for two terminally-ill family members. I've already touched on a couple of examples (see When Paper Is The Best Technology and Just the Fax, Ma'am), and here a couple more:

  • The funeral home that couldn't find the pre-paid paperwork and, after being provided with my carbon copy, defended itself by saying, "oh, that was done under the old owners." As if that justified the days-long halt they called to making the final arrangements.
  • The same funeral home that couldn't find another client's file folder and sent two staffers on an obvious office search, during which they loudly asked within earshot of everybody present, "has anyone seen the [family name] file?" Privacy? We don't need no stinking privacy.
  • The hospital ICU nurse who missed a critical bit of medical information because it was recorded on a piece of paper "that is a different size and color than I've ever seen before." Apparently reading is not fundamental.
  • The rehab facility whose blood-testing machine returned a result so far from normal that the technician thought the patient must be dying or dead – only to discover that he was exhibiting no symptoms at all. Couldn't be that there was something wrong with the machine, could it? Nah – better to rush the tube-fed, dialysis patient to the emergency room instead.

I could go on, but I won't for fear of offending more sensibilities than just my own. Suffice to say that these infogov-related incidents were painful for the family and disruptive to the institutions involved, which then had to spend time and effort addressing what went wrong.

Oh the Humanity!

I'd like to say that this story has a happy ending, that the funeral home, the hospital, the rehab facility learned their lesson, but they didn't. It's clear to me that the powers-that-be in each of these places – as is the case in so many – are more concerned with being right than with doing the right thing. The shame of it is that they could make some relatively small changes in their information-handling and make life better for both themselves and their constituents. But I'm sure they won't.

And that's a shame, because, to me, THAT is what infogov is really all about.

==========================
Steve Weissman | 617-383-4655
- The Info Gov Guy™
- Member, AIIM Company of Fellows
- Co-Founder,
Information Coalition
- Follow me on Twitter! @steveweissman

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Paul Revere & InfoGov: Rebels of Action & Collaboration

Listen My Children and You Shall Hear 
of the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere"

Paul Revere's Ride,
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Question: what does Paul Revere's ride have to do with information governance? Answer: it illustrates well that regardless of the success of this or that particular effort, what's important is that you do something and work with others to get the job done.

Revere is, well, revered, for alerting the good people of Lexington and Concord to the presence of approaching Redcoats. But did you know that he was captured en route and never actually finished the journey? That honor goes to Dr. Samuel Prescott, who had met up with Revere, managed to escape, and rode on to Concord in Revere's stead.

This success was a function of both men's commitment to action and to the assembly of a dedicated team. Revere and his associates (who also included one William Dawes) could have worried that "it's too risky, it's not my job, what if we're wrong, blah blah blah" and sat back and done nothing. But they didn't, and the rest – quite literally – is history.

To be sure, good infogov isn't as significant to global affairs as Revere's ride turned out to be. But achieving it requires the same sort of dedication. Getting started necessitates that you do something – do anything – even if you're not sure precisely how it will turn out. And getting finished demands a cooperative effort of like-minded individuals who believe in a good greater than themselves.

So don't just sit there – do something!

==========================
Steve Weissman | 617-383-4655
- The Info Gov Guy™
- Member, AIIM Company of Fellows
- Co-Founder, Information Coalition
- Follow me on Twitter! @steveweissman

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Unformation: The Difference is Clear

​Show of hands: who here remembers the old ad campaign for "7-Up: The Uncola"? Of those of you who do, how many can connect it to a critical piece of information management? Stay with me; I'll explain.

A Delicious Lesson From the Past
I'm a big believer in not reinventing the wheel. So as I am wont to do, I turned to the past while helping a client figure out how best to "sell" the concept of infogov to senior executives who love to throw technology at problems. And that led me to one of the most effective bits of marketeering in history.

7-Up's breakthrough program was crafted to breathe life into what was already a 40-year old brand, primarily by differentiating it from the market-dominating colas of the day. Strange though it may first sound, our client is seeking something quite similar: a means to revive the pursuit of information betterment, primarily by differentiating "good" content from "bad."

So …
Where 7-Up gave us the Uncola,
I bring you Unformation.

Information Good, Unformation Bad
Infogov is most powerful when it is used not just to protect and leverage the information that's most needed, but also to scrap what's not. You know: all the document drafts and copies that clutter your inboxes and shared drives, the emails to customers that may promise things your established policies prohibit, the boxes of old paper that block the fire exit in your basement, the old records than serve no purpose but to delight opposing counsel in a discovery process.

All this is what I mean by Unformation: not the "good" content we (think we) can so readily identify, but all the other stuff that needs to be culled, categorized, and either kept or ditched according to your business rules.

A Taste of Something New
And isn't that really the point? Not just to use technology to care for and feed your daily data – something that's getting to be fairly commodity – but to bring discipline to the way you deal with everything else. 7-Up changed people's thinking by embracing its "un"-ness and reframing the conversation. Like my client, you now can do the same, by countering the typical fixation on technology with a refreshing new message of your own.

Just for fun ...


==========================
Steve Weissman | 617-383-4655
- The Info Gov Guy™
- Member, AIIM Company of Fellows
- Co-Founder, Information Coalition
- Follow me on Twitter! @steveweissman

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