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A Shawshank Approach to Governance

shawshank approach to governance

Our family have hundreds of movies (we have purchased legally!) that we have stored on our hard drives. But we don’t like to store them in alphabetical order because that’s not how we search for a movie to watch on a Friday night. We want to search for a genre we’re in the mood for, like a kids film, or a comedy, or a sci-fi, or a drama. We need categories not alphabetisation.

But the trouble is that we haven’t come up with an agreed categories list. Somehow, there are folder structures that have been created that when we take a closer look at them, we have some really frustrating paths, such as:

  • Kids Films > Comedies > New
  • Films > Comedies > Kids Films
  • New > Comedies

I would like to say that I am not responsible for these categories, and it drives me crazy. I can never find anything to watch. And it also reminds me of every single shared drive I’ve ever seen (and a lot of document management systems).¬†I’m sure you know what I mean – the mess of folders, with little or no structure around how information is saved.

Without information structures, we get ourselves in a big mess.

Luckily with films, they have exact titles. You aren’t going to name ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ (arguably one of the best films of all time), something like ‘The Stephen King novella about a Prison’.

But that’s not the case with our documents. So added to the problem of storing documents and information in messy structures of folders, we then proceed to name them stupid names we’ll never be able to remember, and we’ll struggle to find them and the information they contain ever again. Some of the names I see time and time again include:

  • List.docx
  • Notes.docx
  • Final Version PDF.pdf
  • <person’s initials> Comments.docx
  • Table.xlsx

I’m sure you can relate. And I’m sure you can see why we get into so much trouble when we go to look for information and documents later. We might as well not have created them, because we’ll never be able to find or use them.

That’s why Information Governance is so important. But I don’t like to call it Governance. I prefer to talk about structures, rules, guidance and monitoring, and I find it’s far more relatable to people.

Good Information Governance for documents starts with:
1. Well-defined categories (classifications) and sub-categories that people understand; then
2. Clear naming conventions; then
3. Rules and guidance around version control.

You get these three right, and you are a long way towards governing your documents better. You are not only managing the risk of storing and finding this information in future, but maximising the value of your information. And that’s where magic happens.

The next time you go to save your document in the shared drive, your SharePoint library or your document management system, take the time to save it to a location that people will look for it in future, and with a name that actually tells you about the information it holds.

Think ‘Twilight Saga – Breaking Dawn Part 2’ (arguably one of the worst films of all time) rather than ‘Vampires and a freaky CGI baby’.

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