INFOGOV16: The Conference of Cthulhu

Six Systemscopers stuck in a sedan for a span… sounds like the punchline of a bad joke, right? It was actually a van, but that would ruin the alliteration and literary elements which were the highlights of our touristy ventures in Providence, Rhode Island – a city known for its association with H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe. Besides roaming the spooky graveyards, awesome libraries, and colonial streets that inspired the literary geniuses, the six Systemscopers road tripped down to Providence for the Information Governance Conference 2016 hosted by the Information Coalition, a group formed to address perceived gaps from other Records and Information Management (RIM) associations and support the Information Governance (IG) community. Our goal was to learn about Information Governance and assess what aspects could be brought into the Government of Canada (GC) context.

#InfoGov16, as savvy social media savants know it, had a wide spectrum of attendees including consultants, lawyers, educators, security companies, IT/tech platform vendors, and government, to name a few. There were 150+ attendees made up of 23.66% Decision Makers, 57.25% Decision Influencers, and 19.08% who had No Role in Decision Making. The format was unique with multiple key note speakers and sessions that averaged 20 minutes followed by an optional Q&A roundtable in a dedicated room. Speaker profiles available here.

Six Five seafaring (Rhode Island is The Ocean State!) Systemscopers reflect on #InfoGov16, facets of IG, and whether the GC is ready for IG:

The Cathedral of Saint John. Before “shower thoughts,” there were the “cemetery thoughts.” H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe can attest

The Cathedral of Saint John. Before “shower thoughts,” there were the “cemetery thoughts.” H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe can attest

Linda Lee | Bio
This being my first IG Conference (and likely not my last), I wanted to get a better understanding of what information governance was all about and to discover the amazing advances and ideas private industry and American organizations had brought to bear on information governance. My hope was to see what new approaches could be adopted to address the challenges many Information Management (IM) teams are facing in the GC today. The good and bad news is that in many ways, Canadian government is already on the right path from this perspective. Listening to the case studies and sessions at the conference, the work already done on IM policies and directives, IRBV identification, tools such as GCDOCS, and IM awareness has improved GC IM maturity. The next (and most difficult) challenge for government and private industry alike is to bring together the key areas of security, legal, IM, ATIP and business functions at the enterprise level thereby providing the complete package. This will require a shift in mindset to focus on business rather than compliance. In order for this to be successful, organizations need to think about the considerable impacts on processes and culture.

Lessons in remembering that, in ye olden years, “f” is actually “s,” as in “Stonehouse.”

Lessons in remembering that, in ye olden years, “f” is actually “s,” as in “Stonehouse.”

Rebecca Soper | Bio
The IG Conference’s biggest strength, in my opinion, was the sheer volume and variety of content offered owing to its unique format. One of the benefits of this was several keynote speakers per day. My biggest take-aways came from the mid-day keynote on day 1, by John Newton.

Three key shifts in traditional thinking need to occur to support a realizable move toward true and accountable information governance:

  • Design thinking –the importance of the design of human/technology interactions and the technical interfaces with which people work with their information is becoming evident.
  • Platform thinking – moving away from purpose-built solutions and more toward solutions that are open, dynamic, and agile – able to be built upon by anyone with the need and the ability.
  • Open thinking – in support of the platform shift, and in alignment with many current GC priorities, the culture around information needs to shift toward one that is more open, supporting transparency and sharing as a default.

I think the GC is already well-positioned with regard to open thinking. The shift to platform thinking is an organic move that will also begin to happen as the culture begins to adapt and change in practice (rather than simply in theory). Design thinking has historically been the strength of externally-facing information, such as GC websites providing services for Canadians, but there is definitely a growing need and opportunity to begin a more purposeful incorporation of this way of thinking in the way we approach internal information resources and systems.

"Money shot" of the Rhode Island State House and its ridiculously good looking lawn

“Money shot” of the Rhode Island State House and its ridiculously good looking lawn

Jason Abdelhadi | Bio
I found the InfoGov conference refreshing for both its quirky and fast-paced format as well as the boldness of many of the presenters, who were not shy in confronting the failures of past information management approaches. I enjoyed the tension between compliance based presentations (and accompanying “horror stories”) but in particular enjoyed Newton‘s “business value” based approach – that InfoGov needs to offer bold solutions for business and users in addition to fear-mongering. Also notable for some topics not frequently encountered such as inclusivity and bias within the industry, a very thoughtful discussion about the changing value of certification and useful analogies from totally alien disciplines such as the engineering notion of “resiliency” and latent failure within an information context. The latter idea as presented by Ken Mortensen made me think about how non-disastrous or small failures accumulate and show the bigger flaws in information management approaches.

We located one of H.P. Lovecraft's monsters from “The Shunned House” under this very sidewalk thanks to Scholar-In-Residence Abdelhadi

We located one of H.P. Lovecraft’s monsters from “The Shunned House” under this very sidewalk thanks to Scholar-In-Residence Abdelhadi

Christine Newman | Bio
2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the United States Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Similar to Canada’s Access to Information Act, FOIA “provides that any person has the right to request access to federal agency records or information except to the extent the records are protected from disclosure by any of nine exemptions contained in the law or by one of three special law enforcement record exclusions.” Journalist Phil Eil provided his personal experience of navigating the impenetrable depths of US government records with his first FOIA request, which resulted in a five year battle for the complete disclosure of the records he sought. When Eil submitted this FOIA request to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in 2009 for the trial records of Dr. Paul Voklman, which are public records under the Sixth Amendment, he never thought he would become an expert on FOIA. Eil’s two sessions on FIOA illustrated the importance of access to information and how the value of information changes over time, such as losing value for a journalist trying to write a book. Check our his website to read more – http://www.philipeil.com/book/

 

The delights of Benefit Street known for its showcase of colonial homes and inspiring events

The delights of Benefit Street known for its showcase of colonial homes and inspiring events

Nicole Satchell |
Dr. Mansur Hasib, Program Chair of the University of Maryland University College’s Cybersecurity Technology Masters program, presented a session on Cybersecurity Leadership. According to Dr. Hasib, “the most important element of cybersecurity is the leadership of people. Cybersecurity is people powered perpetual innovation.” This session really emphasized the value of micro innovation – each employee striving to find better ways to do their job every day – and how that contributes to the cybersecurity of an organization. It reminded me that, though we often think of cybersecurity as a technical piece, the people perspective actually surpasses the technical – a lesson to be carried over in any endeavour where technology and people meet.

 

Inside the Providence Athenaeum -- one of the oldest libraries in America

Inside the Providence Athenaeum — one of the oldest libraries in America

InfoGovCon bills itself as “the Conference where Information Converges & Strategy Emerges.” Emerging from the conference, Systemscopers were assured that the Systemscope approach aligns with Information Governance concepts. Our challenge is to take these ideas and apply them at a strategic level to bring value to business.

What do you think blogosphere – is the GC ready for Information Governance?


Linda Lee is a bilingual information management professional with a Masters degree in Library and Information. She has been providing consulting expertise to federal government IM managers and is adept at planning and providing project management of IM resources and IM projects. She has thorough knowledge of the GC IM Strategy, the TBS Policy on IM and other IM policy instruments. As a trained librarian, Linda has more than ten years of practical experience with Government of Canada clients in the areas of information management, information technology, records management, and library services consulting. She has been involved in projects specific to IM awareness and training, IM policies and guidelines, performance measurement, and information architecture. Linda is a consummate professional who diligently works to keep on the leading edge of her field so that her clients are always provided with an optimal practical solution. Her ability to liaise between technical staff and non-technical users of information systems has made her highly sought after in a wide range of consulting and client support requirements.


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