"An extraordinary thinker and strategist" "Great knowledge and a wealth of experience" "Informative and entertaining as always" "Captivating!" "Very relevant information" "10 out of 7 actually!" "In my over 20 years in the Analytics and Information Management space I believe Alan is the best and most complete practitioner I have worked with" "Surprisingly entertaining..." "Extremely eloquent, knowledgeable and great at joining the topics and themes between presentations" "Informative, dynamic and engaging" "I'd work with Alan even if I didn't enjoy it so much." "The quintessential information and data management practitioner – passionate, evangelistic, experienced, intelligent, and knowledgeable" "The best knowledgeable, enthusiastic and committed problem solver I have ever worked with" "His passion and depth of knowledge in Information Management Strategy and Governance is infectious" "Feed him your most critical strategic challenges. They are his breakfast." "A rare gem - a pleasure to work with."

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Gazing in to the Information Management Crystal Ball

Looking ahead, ahead of the Records & Information Officers' Forum

In finalising my preparations ahead of chairing of the 5th Annual National Records & Information Officers' Forum, I thought I should put down a few thoughts and observations ahead of the event and make note of some of the key issues to which I expect the industry to return, not just at this particular event, but during 2014 more generally... (I've decided to make do with a crystal ball as my divination method of choice this year; goat's entrails are more traditional, but it tends to upset the children and always make such as mess...).

Hot Topics

Privacy & Information Security
With all the debate last year about the NSA, PRISM, Edward Snowden etc., as well as the European Union's exploration of new, tougher Data Protection Standards, Information Privacy was high on the "talking point" list in 2014 (indeed, Dictionary.com made it their word of the year). I anticipate that 2014 to be the year where we move from talking about privacy to actually doing something about it. And I expect the key drivers to be based on it being good business, rather than being about regulatory compliance. Businesses will need to address their customers' concerns about privacy and security of their data (or at the very least, be seen to be doing something), or risk the reputational fallout that will follow.

Information Value
Regular visitors to this blog will know that identifying demonstrable business value (ak.a. "benefits" or "outcomes") is a continuing theme of mine where Information Management and Data Governance are concerned. Correlation of business process and the information consumed by the process is vital. It encourages me to see that others are starting to come to the same realisation and I'm pretty hopeful that in the coming year, the technology vendors will actually start selling their solutions based on business outcomes rather than on technical features, scaremongering and "next big thing" hype. "Value" has even started appearing regularly in the pick-list of "Big Data Vees", although the tech megavendors like IBM  and Oracle seem to be slow to join the party...

"Big Data" is a fact of life
Sorry, but I do have to go there. Yes, I hate the term. Yes, I wish we could have a proper, nuanced conversation about the nature of data and its utility within specific values, rather than resorting to this ugly, meaningless shorthand. (And yes, I recognise that in continuing to rail against the phrase "Big Data", I'm trying to turn the Cnutian tide, close a stable door after the prize filly has galloped headlong into the neighbouring county and re-moor a particularly large ocean-going liner that has a full head of steam). But on the plus side, I think we're starting to see a shift towards real and repeatable solutions for complex analytics using high volumes of input data. During 2014, I expect that just as has been happening within healthcare, further business use-cases that can properly exploit the tool-kit will start to move from being niche hand-built solutions to become more pervasive packaged applications.

Records-keeping is dead...
Controversial statement I know, given that I'm about to chair a conference for records and information officers! The fact is that technologies and tools such as Enterprise Search and eDiscovery are now sophisticated and pervasive enough to render traditional librarianship capability nigh-on redundant. (If not right now, then soon). Compliance is not a motivator. So what I'm looking for is a mindshift. Recordskeeping people will need to re-think, re-group and re-position themselves as enablers of business outcomes, facilitating and communicating the value inherent in the information holdings that they curate. Curiosity, insight, analytical thinking, narrative, engagement, influence - long live the Records-keeper!

Data Governance and the rise of the CDO
Given that I'm also contributing an expert commentary session to RIOF, as well as charing the event, I thought I'd better finish by mentioning Data Governance! For me, the Data Governance capability provides the catalyst to pull together all of the above issues into a coherent approach, particularly when faced with the prospect of increasingly distributed treatments of data. Data Governance also provides the focal point for other complementary requirements and capabilities e.g. Metadata management, Information Asset Management, Ownership & Stewardship etc.). As the industry continues to mature, I expect to see that the emerging role of the Chief Data Officer will encompass and build upon the progress that we've made in establishing Data Governance as a required organisational competency, so that the organisation finally gets a true end-to-end Information Service capability. That is a prospect that I'm really looking forward to.

What do you think? Have I got the key themes right? Are there other pressing issues that need to be addressed in the Records and Information space? What questions would you want to ask the RIOR expert panel? I'd love to hear your thoughts.


  1. In the enterprise, at least, I would offer a suggestion that we will begin to see the closure of the currently 'open loop' between semantics, structure, class and identity. That's a mouthful but in our zeal as informaion managers to classify everything 'data' (Big~, Meta~, Master~, Transactional~, etc.) we have lost sight of the fact that it's all the same.

    On the flip side, I propose to 'open the loop' between information and data by suggesting that rather than a hierarchical relationship (data is a sub-species of information) we instead begin to look at it as a spriral continuum that begins and continues with language. If I 'know' a word (information) that I can persist as data using some technology, then I increase the likelihood that new information can be added to it, and so on.

    Finally, and it goes without saying that these thoughts may not yet resonate with the IM community at large, I believe the current 'flat' geometry that we use to 'technically enhance information' will give way to a model more closely representing the multi-dimensional fractal model we see in the 'real' world, whatever that term means to you.


    John O'Gorman
    Principal and Chief Disambiguation Officer
    Quantum Semantics Inc

  2. Thanks John - I agree, and we've come to a similar conclusion at UNSW.

    Within the Data Governance area, we're now taking the view that it doesn't matter to the business community whether a particular informational term is "metadata", "master data", "reference data", "classification scheme", "taxonomy", "entity", "attribute"... (or whatever). From a business viewpoint, it's all just "data".

    At a practical level. there's now a clear set of expectations and agreement about how we work here. Sorting all that "data stuff" out and classifying all of the informational terms into a manageable, representable and sharable form is the job of the data management practitioners - and our methods, techniques and tools don't get surfaced outside of the practitioner group. The business consider it to be "our job" to do all that, and they trust us to do the right things.

    All the business users care about is seeing the final end product, and that's the only perspective that we need to share and validate with them.

    To work in that way has actually been quite liberating for us as a service group, as well as reducing the business's frustration; they no longer have to get involved in "esoteric, theoretical" discussions about the nature, classification and structuring of data items...

    PS I love your job title! :)

  3. Well said. Would that all data / IT departments worked that way - and liberating is an excellent way of describing the relationship at both ends. As for the job title, thanks - it's part of my elevator pitch to the business which echoes your own:

    In support of the ultimate goal of effective information management at all levels of the enterprise, QSI holds the following to be self-evident:

    Ambiguity is not what our customers want
    Ambiguity causes delay
    Ambiguity causes uncertainty
    Ambiguity is wasteful, expensive and potentially corrosive

    Therefore, to give our customers what they really want (good information) and to simultaneously reduce waste, QSI proposes to eliminate ambiguity at all levels of enterprise data.

  4. Great piece of writing, I really liked the way you highlighted some really important and significant points. Thanks so much, I appreciate your work.

    Business Information Management