Last year I published a widely-read series of articles I called “The Four Lies Destroying Records Management.” In this post, I will discuss the fifth – and most destructive – lie, “Information Governance.”
For thousands of years, records management professionals have provided their customers with the same vitally important service: we efficiently manage recorded information through each phase of its natural lifecycle. Those lifecycle phases have never changed. They are Creation, Distribution, Use, Maintenance, and Disposition.
While the tools we have used have evolved tremendously over the centuries, our profession’s value proposition has never changed. We hold a fiduciary responsibility over how our customer’s information is managed – from the first day it is created to the last day it exists.
So, given the records manager’s long-time role as the guardian of our customer’s recorded information, it only makes sense that we are also the natural enemy of any organization that wants to exploit that information for their own gain.
Hackers looking to steal our customer’s information are probably the first group that come to mind here. And so-called “data breaches” are certainly a threat. But based on my two-plus decades of supporting real-world electronic records management across scores of companies and dozens of industries, I can tell you that the most serious threat to the success of our profession actually comes from a small number of very powerful technology companies.
Years ago, leaders of these companies realized that another billion or two dollars in revenue has no incremental effect on the power their companies possess, and information, not money, is the only real currency that matters anymore. And while these companies may publicly claim to support the service records management professionals provide, they understand that our work managing, controlling, and in particular, destroying information is actually one of the few legitimate threats to their otherwise nearly unlimited power.
As a result, these companies secretly banded together, declared war on the records management discipline, and collectively devised a scheme to wrest control of the information lifecycle from the hands of qualified records management professionals, thus ensuring that the information is almost never truly destroyed, and always remains accessible to them and their allies.
The single most important component of this scheme was the creation of a new, imaginary form of information lifecycle management that they called “Information Governance”. (To be clear, I know this to be true because I was there when they did it.)
The tech companies never bothered to define what ‘information governance’ was or how it was different and/or superior to traditional records management, but they knew they didn’t need to. Instead, they spent millions of dollars convincing naive records management thought leaders and corrupt industry associations that their new discipline was the best method for managing the information lifecycle – and they could all get wildly rich by promoting it.
Within a year or two of hatching their plan, dedicated records management professionals started to see a strange, quiet takeover of our profession.
Here’s an example. This is the Electronic Discovery Reference Model released by the EDRM Advisory Council in 2007:
This is the EDRM that was released in 2014:
Notice that nothing between these two models changes with the sole exception of name of the starting point in the model. What was originally labeled “Records Management” was suddenly relabeled “Information Governance”. No further information was provided. No justification of this change was made. And – most importantly – no dissension was tolerated from any skeptical members of the professional records management community. This is the power that the big tech companies are capable of wielding. (And keep in mind that this happened over a decade ago. The power these few companies have has grown exponentially since then – in no small part due to their successful attacks on the records management discipline.)
This is another, more recent, example. Here are the last few paragraphs from this February 2020 article in the Epoch Times:
“Unlike the compliance failures uncovered in the Air Force IG reports, the records management failures related to the DOD-certified applications are connected to more than the federal government. In IBM’s case, Lueders was vocal about the software being unused. He said the company kept on selling it.
Other tech giants have long been aware their records management software is unviable in current electronic environments, according to Prescott.
In a first for IBM’s DOD 5015.2-certified products, the company announced it would discontinue support for one of its records management products in April.”
So DoD 5015.2-certified records management products are proven to be abject failures for managing the lifecycle of recorded government information, resulting in a government that can’t be held accountable for anything, catastrophic Federal agency “data breaches”, and the deaths of untold innocent men, women, and children. And IBM’s response is to “discontinue support for one of its records management products.”
But what does the company really do?
Here is a link to IBM’s “InfoSphere Information Governance Catalog”:
I have searched this catalog extensively. I find tools for managing “information governance policies,” “information governance rules,” and even “data rules,” which all sound like methods supporting the management of the information lifecycle. But nowhere do I find any mention of solutions providing support for records management.
And yet, when IBM submitted their solution for evaluation for Gartner’s 2021 Magic Quadrant for Content Services – which ranks “Records Management” at the top of its list of “Critical Capabilities” – they included the same DoD 5015.2-certified records management application that they have been selling for at least 15 or 20 years:
Like all other big tech companies, IBM clearly supports “information governance.” It is highlighted in branding for many of their most expensive enterprise offerings. But what “information governance” solutions are they using to support management of their customers’ information lifecycle? Why would they submit their old DoD 5015.2-certified records management product for the Gartner Magic Quadrant evaluation? And what records management product did IBM discontinue way back in April 2020?
I could go on and on with these examples, but the truth is “information governance” is not a new discipline. It never has been. It is a lie created by very powerful organizations to destroy the records management profession, seize control of the information lifecycle, and prevent the accountability, transparency, privacy, and information security that our ancient discipline has ensured for centuries.
For many years, I’ve given new records management professionals the same advice: If you want to understand what you are up against, read “1984”. George Orwell understood that absolute tyranny only required two things. First, a system to control the thoughts of the people in the present. And second, a means to destroy what the people knew of their past.
In “1984,” Big Brother controlled the minds of the citizens of Oceania, much like our own media controls our thoughts today.
As for destroying the past, it is no coincidence that the book’s protagonist, Winston Smith, was a records manager in the government’s Ministry of Truth, doing exactly the opposite of what a records manager is supposed to do: destroying and altering recorded information.
In “1984”, Orwell wrote:
“War is peace.
Freedom is slavery.
Ignorance is strength.”
I believe if he were alive today, Orwell would probably add: “Records management is Information Governance.”