Industry, Shmindustry – Information Governance is a Profession

Industry
noun | in·dus·try | \ˈin-(ˌ)dəs-trē\
: the process of making products by using machinery and factories
: a group of businesses that provide a particular product or service
– Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Those of us in “the industry” love to talk about the leading players in “the industry,” latest trends in “the industry,” and where “the industry” will be in two years, five years, ten years. This is all well and good, but I have a question:

Just what the heck “industry” are we talking about?
And by definition, are we even in an “industry” at all?

  • Information governance is a people-based profession, and the “products” we make relate to best-practices, not tangible goods. So no machinery or factories are required.
  • A group of businesses certainly does exist to provide products and services to support the implementation of these best-practices, but the providers in question trade in a wide range of offerings – packaged applications, development support, consulting services, etc. – not something “particular.”

No, good people, no. We are not part of an industry. We are in a profession.

Back to the dictionary:

Profession
noun | pro·fes·sion | \prə-ˈfe-shən\
: a type of job that requires special education, training, or skill
: the people who work in a particular profession
– Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Properly managing information requires the kind of knowledge that most of us didn’t get in college; rather, we gained these things through on-the-job experience and formal training – precisely as cited in the dictionary.

Your Brain is Your Heavy Machinery

I enjoy a good rant as much as the next guy, but that’s not why I wrote this. No; the origin of this piece is my continued frustration with the all-too-prevalent perception that the ECM, BPM, records management, and other, similar types of software solutions can solve all your problems simply by plugging them in.

Don’t get me wrong; these offerings are generally great at what they do. But they are often positioned as “silver bullets” even though their total value can’t be unlocked without ensuring they conform to the contours of your situation. This requires some fairly intense deep thinking on many levels, and even the best and brightest of the uninitiated will have a tough time without the proper contextual background.

The bottom line is that the “product” you “make” is a more efficient, effective, secure way for your organization to operate, and you use your brain, not a machine, to create it – just as an attorney uses his or hers to “make” a winning case or a doctor “makes” an accurate diagnosis and successful treatment plan.

So let’s refer to ourselves as we truly are, in the workplace, to customers and clients, and at performance review time: members of a profession, taking our place alongside medicine or the law as a source of respected, trusted, highly-trained authorities in our field.

Not our industry.

There’s a reason the advanced AIIM credential is called Certified Information Professional – contact me now to assemble a prep class to earn yours!

About the author: Steve Weissman

Steve Weissman is Principal Consultant at Holly Group and Co-Founder of Information Coalition. A trusted advisor for more than 20 years, he is a recognized expert in information governance and process innovation – or as he defines it, in the “’care and feeding’ of critical business information and the technologies used to manage and protect it.” Known as The Info Gov Guy™, Mr. Weissman leverages a proven proprietary methodology to optimize everything from your strategic planning and needs assessment to your vendor selection and user adoption. He is a member of the AIIM Company of Fellows and holder of numerous industry designations, and can be reached at steve@hollygroup.com or 617-383-4655.

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