Launch of the Information Governance Initiative

Originally posted on e-Disclosure Information Project:

The most interesting topic of discussion at LegalTech 2014 was not some new technology nor the proposed revisions to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, but the launch of the Information Governance Initiative. That is certainly not to dismiss the technology at LegalTech – Equivio launched Equivio Zoom for Information Governance in the same week as the IGI, and Recommind’s Axcelerate 5 made its appearance at LegalTech for example - but the technology is servant to the objectives, and information governance is increasingly seen as the objective which matters; that is why Equivio and Recommind are among the supporters of the IGI.

The inspiration behind the IGI comes from the strong team which has assembled at Drinker Biddle & ReathBennett Borden, Jay Brudz and Jason Baron who, with Barclay Blair of ViaLumina and others, have long been the instigators of constructive thought about information governance.

What is information…

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Announcing The Information Governance Initiative

Three years ago, I sat down in a conference room in Washington, D.C with some really smart people and we quickly realized that we shared a vision for a consortium and think tank devoted to advancing Information Governance. Each of us had seen the incredible value that better information governance could create for their respective clients, but had also witnessed the consequences of information failure first-hand. Without a way for IG practitioners to share their experience across disciplines, it seemed unlikely that the promise of information governance would be fulfilled. Today, thanks to the support of like-minded individuals and organizations, this vision has been realized.

I am so pleased to announce the launch of the Information Governance Initiative (IGI), a cross-disciplinary consortium and think tank focused on advancing information governance. The IGI will publish research, benchmarking surveys, and guidance for practitioners on its website at www.IGInitiative.com. The research will be freely available, and the group will also be providing an online community designed to foster discussion and networking among practitioners.

I am founder and executive director, and it would be great if you would join us.

Our Mission

I believe information can be a positive transformative force in the world – improving business, government, and the lives of people in all walks of life. But I also believe that these benefits are not automatic, and in fact will only be the result of sustained, proactive efforts to understand and manage information in a better way. I believe that there is a need for like-minded people to come together and find this better way. A forum for ideas, facts, and techniques. An initiative that pushes the market forward and builds information literacy.

That’s why we created the Information Governance Initiative – and why we want you to be a part of it.

Who We Are

I founded the IGI along with Bennett B. Borden. I am the executive director, Bennett is the organization’s chair, and Jason R. Baron is co-chair. Jay Brudz is general counsel.

The IGI Advisory Board is comprised of members drawn from the disciplines that own the facets of information governance including information security, data science and analytics, e-discovery, business management, IT management, compliance, business intelligence, records management, finance and audit, privacy, and risk management. We are also developing a Corporate Council comprised of practitioners working in IG. Contact us if you are interested in participating in the Corporate Council.

At launch, IGI Advisory Board members include Courtney Ingraffia Barton, senior counsel, global privacy at Hilton Worldwide, Inc.; Julie Colgan, president of ARMA International; Leigh Isaacs, VP of the information governance Peer Group at ILTA; and Richard Stiennon, chief research analyst at IT-Harvest and well-known cybersecurity expert. Additional board members are being added on an ongoing basis.

Our Supporters

The IGI is launching with broad support from leading providers of information governance products and services, including:

We are also partnering with a variety of organizations to bring IG stakeholders from different disciplines together to work on the information governance problem. For example, we have partnered with The CFO Alliance, a community of over 4,000 senior finance professionals, to bring the IG conversation to the finance community. ARMA International has appointed a representative to the IGI Advisory Board, and the two organizations plan on working together to advance the adoption of information governance. In addition, the IGI will be presenting several sessions on information governance at the Managing Electronic Records conference in Chicago, May 19-21, 2014.

Get Involved in the IGI

Members of the leadership team are speaking about information governance at nine different sessions during the LegalTech NY 2014 conference between February 4-6th. If you are there, come see us and also visit our Charter Supporters in the exhibit halls.

Learn how you can get involved in the IGI at, www.IGInitiative.com

I also invite organizations interested in supporting the advancement of Information Governance to contact me at 646 450 4468 or barclay.blair@IGIniative.com.

2014 ABA Information Governance, E-Discovery and Digital Evidence Conference

Next week don’t miss the 2014 American Bar Association Information Governance, Electronic Discovery and Digital Evidence National Institute at Stetson’s Tampa Law Center in Tampa, Florida, on January 28-31, 2014. I spoke at this event last year, and was supposed to speak again this year, but had a conflict so I will unfortunately not be there. Unfortunate for me, at least. The attendees will probably be fine without me.

This is an event star-studded with e-discovery and information governance luminaries and judges. It is a casual setting, with lots of opportunities to chat with real decision-makers (i.e., judges) and experts who are mapping the future of information governance. Plus, Tampa is a pretty nice place to escape to this time of year. Unless you are from Tampa, in which case, well, you get to sleep in your own bed. And don’t forget to go to Berns (take the tour, it is worth it).

Click here for more information and to register.

Live Information Governance Trends Webinar On January 23rd, 2014

Trends Driving Information Governance Strategies in 2014

In 2013, many organizations successfully launched information governance initiatives, and saw positive progress from those efforts in attaining executive sponsorship, engaging key stakeholders, and executing pilot projects. As we enter 2014, new challenges emerge as organizations look for demonstrable business value amidst unrelenting challenges of information growth, regulatory compliance complexity, and legal discovery.

Join me and Robert A. Cruz as we assess these challenges and discuss what we can expect for Information Governance in 2014. The live webinar, presented by Proofpoint, is on January 23 at 11AM PST/ 2PM EST

Register for the webinar here. 


What Is Unstructured Information & Why Is It So Challenging?

B. Blair Favorite Photos of 2013-25

“Information retrieval is a significant problem for businesses. Further, the extent of the problem worsens with increasing size of the document collection [and] the less formal the information stored.”

Information Retrieval in Business: An Unmet Challenge[i]

Unstructured information, at its simplest, is information that does not reside in the rows and columns of a database. Any database user understands that the meaning of a field in a database is a combination of what the row and the column each mean, such as the price of a widget on a certain date. However, unlike the structured information that resides in databases, unstructured information does not always have a predetermined form, business purpose, use, value, or security classification.

As a result, managing unstructured information is tricky. Many long-established techniques for database administration simply do not apply. This complexity also makes calculating the total cost of unstructured information difficult.

Unstructured information comes in many forms, including word processing documents, spreadsheets, social media posts, and log files automatically generated by computer servers. Some unstructured information has more structure than others (email messages, for example, all have a header, subject line, and message body). Some call this information semi-structured information, but for our purposes, we will use the term unstructured information to include semi-structured information as well.

The volume of unstructured information is growing dramatically. Analysts estimate that, over the next decade, the amount of data worldwide will grow by 44 times (from .8 Zetabytes to 35 Zetabytes: 1 Zetabyte = 1 trillion Gigabytes).[ii] However, the volume of unstructured information will actually grow 50% faster than structured data. Analysts also estimate that fully 90% of unstructured information will require formal governance and management by 2020. In other words, the problem of unstructured information governance is growing faster than the problem of data volume itself.

What makes unstructured information so challenging? There are several factors, including

  • Horizontal vs. Vertical. Unstructured information is typically not clearly attached to a department or a business function. Unlike the vertical focus of an ERP database, for example, an email system serves multiple business functions – from employee communication to filing with regulators – for all parts of the business. Unstructured information is much more horizontal, making it difficult to develop and apply business rules.
  • Formality. The tools and applications used to create unstructured information often engender informality and the sharing of opinions that can be problematic in litigation, investigations, and audits – as has been repeatedly demonstrated in front page stories over the past decade. This problem is not likely to get any easier as social media technologies and mobile devices become more common in the enterprise.
  • Management Location. Unstructured information does not have a single, obvious home. Although email systems rely on central messaging servers, email is just as likely to be found on a file share, mobile device, or laptop hard drive. This makes the application of management rules more difficult than the application of the same rules in structured systems, where there is a close marriage between the application and the database.
  • “Ownership” Issues. No employee thinks that they “own” data in an accounts receivable system like they “own” their email, or documents stored on their hard drive.  Although such information generally has a single owner, i.e., the organization itself, this mindset can make the imposition of management rules for unstructured information more challenging than structured data.
  • Classification. The business purpose of a database is generally determined prior to its design. Unlike structured information, the business purpose of unstructured information is difficult to infer from the application that created or stores the information. A word processing file stored in a collaboration environment could be a multi-million dollar contract or a lunch menu. As such, classification of unstructured content is more complex and expensive than structured information.

Taken together, these factors reveal a simple truth: managing unstructured information is a separate and distinct discipline from managing databases. Moreover, determining the costs and benefits of owning and managing unstructured information is a unique – but essential – challenge.


[i] Michael D. Gordon, “Information Retrieval in Business: An Unmet Challenge,” The University of Michigan, 1991. Online at, http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/handle/2027.42/35654

[ii] International Data Corporation, “The 2011 Digital Universe Study,” June 2011. Online at, http://www.emc.com/collateral/demos/microsites/emc-digital-universe-2011/index.htm

Some brief thoughts on presentations

The Metro New York City chapter of ARMA International has a fabulous program designed to help records and information management professionals develop skills in speaking and presenting, and last night they asked me to share a few thoughts on the topic. Here is a handout that I created for my discussion.

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.