informationIsn’t it ironic that, when we talk about managing information, we are often speaking to each other in different languages: techspeak, legalspeak, riskspeak, securityspeak, healthspeak,  just to name a few.  Why? Because it’s so integrated into to every aspect of our human activity, and it will naturally reflect all of the diversity of our world, or rather all of our worlds.

At the same time, because it’s so important, an overall management approach to make information work better for us – a kind of common language for managing information – just seems like basic good business.  But think of the confusion of terms out there to describe activities, products, professions, positions, departments set up to control information on a grand scale: Records Management, Knowledge Management, Information Management, Information Lifecycle, Enterprise Content Management, ,  … and now Information Governance.

Is this just the latest in a long history of half-fulfilled strategic campaigns to impose order on something that is essentially ungovernable ? Just another  marketing scheme or power grab perpetrated by the usual suspects (mainly consultants, like me, but let’s throw in civil servants, software salesmen and maybe even lawyers in with us too)?

Well, maybe we can find out what it is before we dismiss Information Governance as a concept out of hand.  I haven’t found that many satisfactory definitions, but paraphrasing and condensing the best, here it is: Information Governance is  a program to put business, political, social, values and goals into effect in the way an organization handles and manages its information resources across the organization – including the activities of information creation, retention, destruction, use, disclosure, and security.

As opposed to, say, Records Management, this is an attempt to better encompass all the new regulations and challenges around information networks, privacy, ediscovery, digital continuity, and security.  It’s not surprising that the concept was first developed to meet the technical, ethical, and policy issues of the UK Electronic Health Record initiative in 2002-03 – the traditional records management and IT management tools didn’t fit the bill.

So, everyone would agree that information is so prevalent and crucial to the way we do business , that it even affects how we do that business, and that we need to be sure that information management is in line with our values and goals. But if it is to avoid the already overcrowded BS junkpile of information solutions , Information Governance has to be something that improves outcomes on the ground. The real issue then is: how do we apply our values, goals, and all these new regulatory requirements to the way we manage information in a practical, effective way that leads to what we want information to do?

In my version of Information Governance, the only was to make it functional is to make it, well, functional.   With that annoying, cheeky statement, I hope to entice you to stay tuned for Part 2.