MER Conference: The Information Governance Professional’s Evolving Role

Laurie Fischer | June 26, 2017

Last month, I had the pleasure of attending and speaking at the MER Conference in Chicago. The annual event is one of the largest educational conferences focused on addressing the ever-present challenges of managing electronic records from the legal, technical and operational perspectives.

As the 25th anniversary of the MER, this year’s event had me reflecting on the changes over the years in how we address the challenges of electronic records management. In the beginning, so many of our efforts focused on “preservation” in light of eventual technological obsolescence. We obsessed about preserving the content, context and structure of electronic records over long periods of time. Today, on the other hand, we seem to be much more concerned about disposition of ever-increasing volumes of data. Why has disposition become our new obsession?

Although the costs and risk of e-Discovery have been one of the primary drivers for enhanced management and disposition of electronic content in general, the increasing number of cybersecurity attacks is fast becoming the top area of concern for many organizations. Companies are realizing just how devastating a data breach can be, costing millions of dollars to remediate, let alone the reputational damage and loss of customer trust. In addition, the approaching deadline of the GDPR has many global organizations taking a hard look at their overall information governance practices, including the entire lifecycle of activities from information creation through its eventual disposition.

Increasingly, organizations are realizing that comprehensive information governance is not a task for a single department or individual within the enterprise, but needs a multi-disciplinary approach to be successful. Often, it is the information governance professional who is at the center of these efforts.

In the conference closing keynote session, “Learn What the Chicago Cubs, Legos and 'Embracing the Target' All Have To Do With Achieving Your IG Goals,” I moderated a panel of experts who provided the audience lessons learned from the 2016 World Series Champions, illustrating the path forward for the IG professional.

  • Be flexible and play multiple positions. IG professionals can only benefit by learning and being conversant with the other functions within the organization that are also interested in governance of information, including information security, legal, compliance, privacy and of course, the business. In addition to having a diverse, cross-disciplinary base of knowledge, IG professionals must be able to connect the dots between each discipline and serve as the translator among these functions. This requires not only a certain level of flexibility, but also the ability to speak multiple business languages effectively.
  • Have a strategy and “embrace the target.” All the panel participants stressed the need to develop a sound, comprehensive IG strategy and then to stick with it, despite obstacles and competing priorities. Within the strategy, however, flexibility is warranted as regulations, technologies and best practices continue to evolve.
  • Build political capital and secure executive buy-in. During the “seventh inning stretch” of the session, we conducted a flash survey to identify the main challenges facing IG professionals today. The survey revealed that a large percentage of IG professionals still struggle to secure senior level support. This reiterates the importance of being able to communicate effectively across business disciplines. C-suite executives are focused on the bottom line. To successfully make your case, IG professionals must speak the c-suite's language.

    To appeal to the c-suite’s goals, start by creating a value proposition that highlights how your initiatives will increase efficiencies, improve operational effectiveness and will have a positive impact on the company’s revenue. A cost benefit analysis can be a powerful tool to secure funding and resources.

  • Trust the rookies, seek the advice of the elders. With five generations now in the workforce, the IG professional should consider how each generation approaches information management and technology. There are differences that may impact user adoption of changes to IG processes and technologies. For example, millennials will soon make up a majority of the workforce. Unlike previous generations that learned how to use technology in the workplace, this young generation grew up in the digital age. These digital natives are demanding more workplace collaboration and communication tools. Many are going out on their own and selecting one-off solutions to assist with their work, creating a “shadow IT” environment that creates an IG compliance nightmare.

    Rather than trying to shut these activities down, IG and IT professionals should ask what business need is going unfulfilled by the approved corporate technologies and tools. A broader view of the tools employees are seeking and the problems they are solving should be examined to determine the gaps in the existing technology roadmap.

Never before have the challenges been so great for the IG professional. Conversely, the opportunities to help the organization navigate through the complexity of comprehensive information governance place the IG professional on a path to success through flexibility, perseverance and a winning attitude.

To obtain a copy of the full results from our survey on the challenges facing IG professionals today, please contact me at