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Wikileaks, Tsunamis and Revolutions

achieving organizational resilience through proper information governance

 

Aug 18th 2011, by Abed Shaheen, Managing Director at InfoFort, Dubai, UAE.

 

There has been no better time for companies to rethink their information governance policies and strategies than it is today.

 

Gartner[1] defines information governance as the specification of decision rights and an accountability framework to encourage desirable behavior in the valuation, creation, storage, use, archival and deletion of information.

 

Hence it is the means to help organizations manage corporate risk and improve operational efficiency as they work to achieve resilience, compliance with regulations and laws governing enterprise information.

Driven by traditional business models companies have historically focused on physical value chains, operational excellence and efficiencies when it comes to resilience. They designed and implemented strategies that made sure their products would cost effectively, reach the shelves on time in case of any disruptions in their supply chains.

 

In today’s world this is definitely necessary but absolutely not sufficient. Companies need to rethink how information flows across their value chains, where it is stored, how accessible and secure is it just like they thought about the flow of materials.

 

And nothing made this clearer than three major events that recently took place.


The first is Wikileaks which highlighted the fact that even the most secure organizations and governments are at risk.  So how about the other less sophisticated companies such as family businesses, manufacturers, banks to name a few? Isn’t it really relatively easy for an(y) employee to get hold of sensitive information today at your organization? How about getting rid of some as well?

 

The second is Mother Nature. We all sadly watched the Tsunami that hit Japan and the disasters it created. Other than the terrifying scenes of cars floating, houses burning and nuclear plants destroyed, something else that we didn’t see was also happening. Companies and government entities were losing their records and valuable data just as their supply chains were getting disrupted.



And just like what happened in the unfortunate events of September 11, time will tell how many companies will go out of business and how others will emerge even stronger and more competitive due to their comprehensive risk management and information governance strategies. Insurance policies can definitely compensate financial losses but losing data can be catastrophic. While you can easily replace a lost laptop, you can’t easily retrieve the information you had on it. How about a title deed or a signed contract that has a financial obligation or a legal case?

 

The third is revolutions, social changes and political unrests. Whether it is in Greece, Egypt, the Middle East or just recently the UK, we all have seen the costs of change. In several countries, other than just looting and the sad loss of lives, buildings were also set on fire including governmental ones. We know for a fact that massive amounts of information (whether on paper or elsewhere) were destroyed, lost or stolen and there is no doubt that it would take years if possible to restructure some.

 

 

Information is such a powerful word. Information is everywhere around us. It can be on paper, transformed from paper to digital, created digitally, can reside on a DVD, a tape, hard drive, a server, a cloud network; can be stored physically and electronically, can be archived and retrieved, can be persevered and purged; Information is everywhere and it is unstructured by nature. Regardless of its format or the medium it resides on, information is becoming extremely valuable. Understanding and preserving it is even more important.

Throughout history numerous information loss / destructive events took place. The burning of the Library of Alexandria is probably the most famous example.

 

In World War I (1914-1918), the Library of the University of Louvain, in Belgium, was destroyed as a result of the German invasion. Within a few hours over 300,000 books as well as many precious manuscripts were all reduced to ashes.

 

In 2003, as flames engulfed Baghdad, its national library was destroyed. Iraq lost most of its national archives including manuscripts many centuries old, books and historical documents from the ancient Sumerian, Babylonian and Assyrian civilizations. This was a cultural heritage catastrophe.

 

It is clear that the risk of losing information has always been there. However with today’s increased dependency on information, its extreme integration into our lives and the ever increasing volumes, the consequences are way higher.

 

Take politics, profits and everything else aside, information has been and will always be key to the progress of economies, societies and civilizations. Data is indeed the new oil and the new raw material.

 

Abed Shaheen, Managing Director of InfoFort, the leading records and information management solution provider in the Middle East and Africa, can be reached at abed.shaheen@infofort.com

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