Introduction to Information Governance (IG)

Information Governance (or IG) is hailed as the “next big thing” in records management, and was a prominent theme at both ARMA Houston and the National MER (Managing Electronic Records) conference, which I was fortunate to attend. So before I recap sessions that focus heavily on IG, let’s talk first about what IG actually is. Here are a few definitions:infoicon

  • The specification of decision rights and an accountability framework to ensure appropriate behavior in the valuation, creation, storage, use, archiving and deletion of information. It includes the processes, roles and policies, standards and metrics that ensure the effective and efficient use of information in enabling an organization to achieve its goals. –The Gartner Group
  • An accountability framework that includes the people, processes, policy and technology to ensure the effective management of information in order to enable an organization to achieve its strategic goals and business programs. –The Parity Group
  • A strategic framework composed of standards, processes, roles, and metrics that hold organizations and individuals accountable to create, organize, secure, maintain, use, and dispose of information in ways that align with and contribute to the organization’s goals. -ARMA

Ok…what does that have to do with records management?

I don’t know about you, but my eyes kind of glaze over when I see definitions that are more than two lines long. Basically, information governance means not just having a records management program, but having a RM program that is a compliant, effective, and efficient. Many have said that IG is simply a rebranding of RM (while others argue it is something completely different). It emphasizes the value of information to an organization, rather than focusing on the risks of not doing records management.

The reasoning behind this rebranding, as far as I can tell, is that when most people think of records, they picture file cabinets full of paper. Of course, we all know that this is a painfully incomplete picture of records management. Rebranding records as “information” is one way to get “C-level” (senior  management) officials in an organization to pay attention to the importance of RM/IG. If you tell them, “It’s really important that we get our records management program in order,” they might say, “Well, don’t we have a file clerk to do that?” On the other hand, information governance, simply by its very name – governance – gives the impression of an issue that affects any employee who uses information. And all employees use information.

Another word that I’ve often seen used in conjunction with IG is “holistic.” Just like holistic health practice focuses on all aspects of an individual’s health, a holistic IG practice would encompass all the different people and processes in an organization. That means that everybody involved with records management — IT, legal, information security and privacy, audits, compliance, and the daily operations of your organization — would understand the value of your organization’s information and would do their part to ensure its effective management. And when you think about it, that’s the ultimate goal for all records management programs. We don’t want records management to exist in a vacuum or a silo — we want it to be integrated in all levels and activities of an organization.

IG is for everyone

Sometimes, there’s a misconception that information governance is for the private sector – those big corporations. But if you look closely at the three definitions above, you can see that they all include something about managing information in order for an organization to reach its goals.

In government, our primary goal is to serve the public. So in our context, IG could be defined as “a compliant, effective, and efficient records management program that encompasses all people and processes in a government in order to help that government serve the people of Texas.” It’s why we at TSLAC do all of our trainings and write our blog posts: we don’t just want you to be in compliance with our laws; we actually want you to have a stellar IG program in place. It’s just that in Texas government parlance, we’ll keep calling it “records management” for a long time -– that’s simply the language that’s on the books. We will continue to train state and local governments about how to designate an RMO, how to submit a records retention schedule, and, generally, how to manage records.

But rest assured, if we talk about “information governance,” we do mean records management, and vice versa. In other words, if you decide to transition to an IG model in your government or agency, then from TSLAC’s perspective, you are still complying with our RM laws.

Where can I learn more?

Logo for the Information Governance Initiative.

Logo for the Information Governance Initiative.

IG is such a new concept that there isn’t a lot out there in the form of authoritative resources. Everybody is still figuring it out. If you’d like to go along for the ride, visiting the website of the the Information Governance Initiative is a good start. In their words, “The Information Governance Initiative (IGI) is a cross-disciplinary consortium and think tank dedicated to advancing the adoption of Information Governance practices and technologies through research, publishing, advocacy and peer-to-peer networking,” and they have just published a report on the state of IG.

If Twitter is more your speed, go ahead and search for #informationgovernance and take a look around.

The RECMGMT-L email listserv is a great resource for records management in general (just make sure you use a filter to manage the emails you will get from it, as it is quite a prolific group), and discussions about IG pop up regularly.

And blogs/websites such as the AIIM community and expert blogs, Thinking Records by James Lappin (whose most recent post is about this very subject!), and Next Generation Records Management, provide perspectives from all over the industry. And finally, if you really want to dig into IG, there’s a brand new certification offered by ARMA – the Information Governance Professional.

If you have any thoughts or resources to share about IG, please share in the comments!

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