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.
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
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.
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.
“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
I will be providing the keynote address on a half-day seminar hosted by Sita Corp, SAP, and HP at New York Athletic Club, on October 15, 2013 from 8:30-10:30 am.
I am going to be talking about the challenges of Information Governance in a Big Data world.
Register now at: http://ow.ly/po2mm
A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I was working on new feature article for Law Technology News about about how making more and more data “easily accessible” is both essential for Big Data to fulfill its promise and also a huge risk to privacy, intellectual property, and so on.
The promise of Big Data is based on a central assumption: that information will be easily, quickly, and cheaply available, on a grand scale. The plumbing of Big Data — the technology infrastructure — is designed to bring internet scale to enterprise data. Some of the surprising insights that data scientists hope to gain from Big Data analytics come from correlating information from disparate sources, in a context that was never imagined when the information was first created — such as correlating the type of computer used to book a trip with how much a traveler is willing to pay for a hotel room. Or using prescription drug history to screen health insurance applicants.
The problem of protecting privacy, intellectual property, and other rights will only grow more complex as our ability to access and process information becomes more sophisticated.
I also write about how these issues came to the forefront in the wake of the shooting tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newton, CT. I also explore emerging technology that allows electronic content to “self-destruct.”
The article has now been published, and you can read it here (free registration required).
I was also interviewed about the article by Monica Bay, Editor-In-Chief of LTN, on Law Technology Now. You can listen to our discussion on the embedded podcast below.
Author: Barclay T. Blair