Stripped of its refinements, information governance is the management of information, including the policies and governance rules which dictate what is kept and how it is stored and tagged, and what is destroyed. The aim is to be able to find what you need without having to plough through everything you have ever created or received.
It would be fair to say that my late mother’s approach to domestic IG was to keep everything. Where an organisation would buy another server, my ma would get another piece of furniture to store her papers in, moving existing furniture along the wall to make room for the new shelves or cabinet. The council tax demands for 2007, and all the self-exculpatory waste paper which councils send out with their demands, lie side by side with potentially important documents about planning permissions. Grocery receipts share a box with documents which ought to be kept. The shredder has run hot, but I can’t just drop whole files into it for fear of losing something of value or interest.
I am in no position to criticise her for this, nor do I. I have boxes of paper, much of which was pretty dull when I filed it 20 or 30 years ago. I have vast stores of scanned images – all carefully indexed but nevertheless needing more than bulk deletion. Most of my 21 terabytes of storage consists of photographs and work videos and their backups, but the hard part is the fraction of that volume which represents the equivalent of paper – emails, Word documents, spreadsheets, presentations – the stuff of any discovery exercise.
We have spent six days at my mother’s house so far, with at least two more to come. There are things to organise as well as paper to sort. It is also the year end for the business and the end of the personal tax year. It has not done much for my work productivity, but we have decided to hit it hard and fast and get it done.
We bring away from it a new test for the contents of our own house. It is not the trendy “tidying adventures” of Marie Kondo, but reflects the aspiration expressed by William Morris as “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” I would add this – picture your own children letting themselves into your house on the day you die and wondering where to start. When the Suffolk house is cleared, we will start at once on our own house with that picture in mind.
It is not very different from what we preach to organisations about their data – get rid of the stuff which has no value and make sure that you can find the rest.
If you have to spend time away from home, Orford is a pleasant place to be. The pub we stayed in is close to the quay, and I have been down there before and after each day’s labours. You might like the photographs below.
Normal service will be resumed shortly.