Second in a series of interviews with leaders in the fields of Risk, Compliance and Information Governance across the globe.
Jones Lukose, MBA, PhD is the Information Management Officer for the Criminal Court in the Hague and has over twenty years of experience developing and implementing strategies to achieve operational effectiveness and regulatory compliance for engineering firms, in energy and utilities sectors as well as for international and judicial organizations in Africa, Europe and the Americas. I interviewed him this past February to learn more about his unique insights into information management fundamentals and our future.
Jones, your work and research has taken you to many corners of the world including Kenya, Rwanda, Botswana, Jamaica, Uganda, the UK and now the Netherlands. It’s there you presently direct an important Information Governance program for the International Criminal Court. What do you consider the most common theme in the information management challenges you’ve faced across so many unique cultures and how has that experience shaped how you think about solutions for international organizations?
I have worked in organisations where data is everywhere but the common challenge has been that it seems no one is directing its flow. There is a lot of evidence of information collected and stored that does not fit with the organisation’s strategy. The organisation may say that it is going in a particular direction but the data it holds does not provide the required evidence or proof. My experience in this regard has led me to reconsider my role in the organisation as an Information Manager. In such environments, it is my first priority to help determine the real purpose and value of data to the organisation. In other words lend a hand in crafting the strategy of the organisation by leveraging information management.
How can we, as information management practitioners, as data stewards, effectuate best practices in our workplace in the face of constant, sometimes paradigm shifting changes in technology?
We now live in a world where small sets of information can alter the economies of the most powerful organisation and states on the planet. It is a world, where small streams of sensitive information can digitally leak and cause violent reactions from people living far and beyond the source. Tiny words or images transported via exotic technology can lead to wide-spread panic across whole populations even wars. A world where information is fragmented infinitely raising an infinite number of world views and identities. It is a world where the same information is interpreted differently in space and time. It is a world where information is presented in constant flux with the only constant being surprise.
Whatever your personal convictions, I challenge you to consider that we need a new way of looking at information management. It won’t help to retreat to our old maps and models because the more frustrated we become. We need new information management techniques to navigate the chaos, filter the wrong and point us to the significant. The new information manager will thrive and even love to embrace the chaos of information by applying new lenses and insights. He or she should be ready to be inspired to experiment and try out new ideas and solutions.
Perhaps the information manager of today needs to invest in uncommon skills such as engineering, mathematics, statistics, physics and chemistry to remain relevant. But it is now very possible to visualize the behavior of information management teams and predict their performance using tools that align the required core values to information management practice. An examination of the way employees handle information flowing in the organisation reveals how core values such as respect, transparency, accountability, integrity, innovation etc. are embraced, shared and lived. A value based approach is therefore very effective in establishing positive information management practices in organisations today that can endure the test of time.
In your roles as both a consultant and practitioner your focus has been primarily on guiding entities that serve the public, whether it’s energy, utilities or justice. Is it difficult to balance the need for transparency with the internal privacy, operational and data security demands of the organization? How do you prioritize such competing factors?
We typically think of information governance as a description of who does what with information and who reports to whom. Information Governance however, is much more than a formal system of internal tasks and reporting relationships; something that shows up on intranet sites and bulletin boards. IM Leaders understand that IM governance schemes must be carefully matched to the organization’s purpose and environment. Good IM governance also creates the links between authority, responsibility, accountability and organisational data/information. IM governance influences behaviour and helps shape an organization’s culture over time, much like a skeleton gives shape to the body and allows stability in motion. This dimension guides the IM practitioner in understanding how to judiciously use information as an enabler of change, but more importantly how it can be aligned appropriately to nurture effective behaviour and reporting relationships.
I seek principles and use them as values that transcend technology, methodologies and techniques. Without principles, valuable information is mishandled, individuals lose their way and organizational anxiety ensues. This creates confusion, conflicts, paralysis, and cannibalization of energy. As part of leadership I set clear principles and manage these proactively rather than in damage control when a crisis occurs. I am mindful of information handled within the organization and inspire other staff through my own behaviour.
Sometime priorities are not arrived at rationally but via experience and intuition. In the modern approach, the information manager needs to assume that in complex systems prediction and prioritisation is impossible; the information manager accepts greater indeterminacy and ambiguity. In light of this, the modern information manager needs to rely greatly on intuitive feel for situations, and trusts in the character, creativity, and abilities that they and others bring to the profession. It is essentially a “dance” but created by “jazz artists” that intuitively trust in each other’s abilities and skills to produce something of higher value than the sum of their individual abilities.
The International Criminal Court has a fantastic public facing portal where court documents are indexed, redacted and made available to the public once authorized by the court. I can only imagine that the responsive documents, evidence and court created documentation in these historic cases is voluminous, especially considering document retention requirements. How has providing this robust tool for both keyword search, metadata and contextual filtering improved people’s interaction with and perception of the court and how much do you think the tool has helped raise awareness about it’s critical mission?
The court needed to adapt its online presence to meet the expectations of current and future stakeholders, ensuring it reflects the status of the Court as top judicial organisation. This view was widely supported by staff and external stakeholders consulted before the start of the project. The digital environment of the Court is continuously evolving, and with it both the way it does business online and the expectations of users. In particular, progress is rapid in social networking and mobile access. A wide-ranging and sustained transformation of the Court’s web presence was thus initiated; encompassing the tools used, the way in which the Court presents itself to and engages with all audiences, and the way in which this information is managed and monitored. The development phase utilized a different philosophy and approach to web presence. The result was a simplified and more focused presentation of content on the website. However, the transformation of the current website to the new approach was particularly challenging given the high volume of information, level of customization to, and dependence upon existing services and the support teams in place.
The entire information management community before 1983, when ARPANET was created, consisted of a relatively small group of librarians, archivists and museum curators around the world. In just a few decades the internet has opened the floodgates to information and publishing, fundamentally altering the way we access, catalog, contextualize facts, records, information and ultimately process knowledge and education. Now context and narrative is no longer the role of a Putman editor or an associated press. Rightly or wrongly, that responsibility now belongs to any one of millions of us involved in managing information. Has this “democratization of data” impacted our ability as a society to discern the truth, when the truth, and the integrity of records, can be so easily stolen, manipulated and even weaponized for political, personal and other nefarious reasons?
The notion of all of us information managers becoming a part of the data-information system as seen in modern (digital) organisations today is not fundamentally new. Today, the information manager is no longer external and neutral, but through the act of ingestion and dissemination becomes a part of the information ecosystem. It also has huge implications on the role and responsibilities of information managers in the born digital world.
The quandary is that the process of accountability is entangled in complexity. As information managers come to understand more and more about the “democratized data”, it seems increasingly likely that events on a data level are not only truly unpredictable, but simply infinitely more complex than ever previously imagined. The actions on data in one location often have a remarkable and unexpected impact to another seemingly disconnected group of data. Because of this, one key facet of information accountability is recognizing that every action can have unexpected and exotic consequences. In practice, this means that the outcome of any given policy decision or action is nowhere near as predictable as previously supposed: ensuring protection from viruses does not necessarily bring security, policies intended to manage protection can create crises in other areas, such as data integrity and provenance.
In order to deal with this data dilemma, it is proposed that information managers develop the ability to see the whole, to see beyond their immediate repository. Just as relationships between tiny data packets are symmetrically balanced, so the relationship between information managers and data sources should be meticulously balanced, with neither side holding too much power over the other.
I see that you recently wrote a book, and it appears completely unrelated to governance, records or anything I’ve asked you about here. It’s entitled Marriage Strings: Tuning Your Relationship to Last a Lifetime. Unfortunately, there are few jobs left these days in any business sector which last a lifetime, but having led so many development and delivery teams, what do you think are the types of interpersonal skills that could help millennials build worthwhile, lasting relationships with colleagues?
It is true that the traditional education systems do not teach young people how to be successful human beings in the workplace. To be a successful and effective today, one must grow and practice integrating many qualities and characteristics on the job. The most important of these are not related to training or skills gained but attitudes effective for organizing information and serving people.
Can you give me, in a few words, or a sentence, any advice for a young person considering a career in the world of Information Governance?
It’s only from the outside that a career in IM looks peaceful, uneventful and nicely boring. So get encouraged and know that you are not alone! Aspire to give back to humanity wherever you are with the gifts and skills that only you can bring! This is what will ultimately bring you joy when the day is long gone and night is here.