In the same week I was pinged by a reader asking us where we stood on "information governance" I answered a post on the same question in LinkedIn that asked about the "emergence of information governance" and "how is it different from data governance?"

Before all you jaded data and information managers start rolling your eyes, I think we can clear this up fairly quickly. At least I hope so, but I will welcome your comments and rebukes below.

Let's stipulate that some big companies, HP, EMC, IBM and more, are trolling the term, though it's hard to keep up with the currency of their messages. The eDiscovery folks (and vendors like HP that productize for them) seem to have caught onto the words especially.

But before I ask whether information governance is really emergent or if any of you are practicing it, let's visit the thought that led to the question. Our reader, perhaps intuitively, assumed that information governance would be a progression or future state of data governance. We've said a lot about "turning data into information" and moving "from information to insight," so I see why it occurred to her. But they're not mutually exclusive for the foreseeable future, even if we're merging or blurring what we like to describe as structured data versus unstructured information or something in between. (That's a topic for another day.)

If we stick to our guns about data governance being about policies, controls and processes related to data creation, ownership, decision rights, etc., then the leap to information governance - in its own domain - looks pretty obvious. It would be most simply the rights and controls version to create, read, update and delete different kinds of information along with some circulation, privacy and access policies.

In fact, there looks to be a gap between information lifecycle management and governance that calls for an update. When you look at what a Gartner analyst has written about information governance and what eDiscovery writer Barry Murphy calls "the conservative side of information management" it walks and quacks a lot like records management or information lifecycle management as we've described it forever.

So let's not let this one spin out of control prematurely. While practices like master data management increasingly require an enterprise notion of data governance, the information side of this is mostly understood and practiced departmentally, finance being the most obvious, or in HR, sales or marketing via GRC policies that dictate the creation and circulation of information. Marketing collateral, spec sheets, product manual creation, sure, we're governing that now, though it could be better.

Down a slippery slope, I can't imagine a data governance equivalent for something like email that would decide what I could write and who I could email it to. (We have governance for that, it's called, "You mailed what to who? You're fired!") Then again, I don't work in a highly regulated industry or the CIA, so I may be missing something.

So back to you. Is there a program or an obvious need for something called information governance at your organization beyond what's been described? Why and where did it become important? Either way, don't be a hater.

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