Friday, May 28, 2010

Proactive v. Reactive

We did a bunch of records and information management (RIM) consulting work for a big oil company a few years ago. The company was motivated to build a world class RIM program because they believed that could be significantly more productive “per well drilled” if they better managed their business information. In other words, they liked eating from the “carrot” jar when being motivated proactively to get serious about harnessing information.

There is another oil company right now battling in the gulf, battling regulators, battling wall street, battling bad PR, battling angry fisherman, battling angry citizens, battling a tourist industry, battling environmentalists, etc. I couldn’t help but think how records will play in resolving this problem which will go on for years — clean-up, new regulations, and lawsuits.

I also want to say that in the cloud of news media, which tends to focus on the gusher,from myself and the whole Kahn Consulting team, we are deeply sorry for the loss of life the tragedy has caused. Our hearts go out to you.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Facebook is fixing its problem

The intent of social networking is to share. The business model of Facebook was to make an environment that promotes sharing. Well they now are being asked to tweak that model. For business sake, Facebook is responding. Here is the story in a nutshell. Facebook is under attack by privacy advocates. I get it, they feel like too much personal info is too available and controls aren’t good enough. So what is Facebook doing—its fixing the problem. I like free market fixes and Facebook is a perfect example of a market driving change. No lawsuits had to be filed (I am sure they will be anyway) or regulators had to jump in to tell Facebook that the way things are structured isn’t good enough and needs to change. So what Facebook is doing is making more basic data private. It's making it easier to control different kinds of information to remain private, provide more ability on the users part to have even more customized settings and provide better control from outsiders to users.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Are they working???

After a few years with the new Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, I am left asking if it has helped. Is discovery any different? Well, I think so, but discovery is still expensive, a pain and major league inconvenience for many—but, I never thought that would go away anyway. There are cases that tell me much as changed. For example, in Calixto v. Watson Bowman Acme Corp, a case about intellectual property rights, the plaintiff sought to compel discovery on back-up tapes with a significant cost to ready them for the searching process. In the case, the court found that the backup tapes were not reasonably accessible due to undue cost and burden. That said, the defendant had to restore one backup tape to see if it contained deleted email from an employee. As you might remember one major change with the new rules was that discovery on “inaccessible data” would not necessarily be forced. The case is one example to say that it seems like they are working. What do you think? Write me with your thoughts.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

IT Ain’t About The Cloud

There is lots of conversation about the privacy and e-communications in the work world, especially with the Supreme Court ruling expected soon in City of Ontario, Calif. v. Quon. As you may know, the case is about the expectation of privacy when an employee uses an employer provided communications devise for personal reasons. In the case a police officer’s sent personal text messages on a department device were reviewed by the department and the officer sued for a violation of his expectation of privacy. Confusion between official department policy which made clear the employees should NOT expect any right to privacy were watered down with a supervisor ‘unofficial’ actions which allowed officers to personally pay for overuse text messaging charges with an understanding the their personal messages would not be reviewed. Even though the department policy was clear regarding the official “no expectation of privacy” for employee use of department-issued electronic communications devices(which the employee signed off on), the supervisor's “unofficial policy” and “creation of an unauthorized expectation of privacy” creates the rub in the case. Now in the employee’s favor he did pay for part of the use of the device and he did send personal messages off-duty so perhaps the employer was not clear about when and how the device should be used and maybe it in part became a “personal” device when he paid for its use. So what is clear—this case makes clear that employers better BE CLEAR about directives. This case is not about third party storage of the messages “in the cloud”, though some have made it about that very issue. This case is not about the court undoing employers rights to review e-communications when they are CLEAR about their “no expectation of privacy” policy. This case is not about what private vs. public employees should expect from their employer regarding monitoring. This case is only about the reasonable expectation of privacy of one officer when policy is made ambiguous by word and deed. The court may broaden its ruling but the case is about varying official policy and unofficial practices and how that impacts what employees expects. Remember in Information Nation: Seven Keys to Information Management Compliance, one of the keys makes clear the need to be consistent. Clear policies consistently applied.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Going “Business Naked” is Way Too Much Exposure

Many many months ago, homeowners started complaining of odors, metal being corroded, respiratory ailments, headaches, nose bleeds, etc. After many more months of investigations, it was determined that drywall produced in China was the likely culprit. Apparently Chinese produced drywall has a concentration of a sulfurous chemical, not found in US produced drywall and it was causing the problem. Anyway there has been lots of governmental wrangling over the issue for many more months. Many articles written about the problem and the passage of more time. Finally, today it was announced that rather than wait for lawsuits to be filed (because that is no fun and likely way more expensive) the Chinese drywall makers are agreeing to settle with large and small home builders in the US who in turn will likely settle with home owners and fix the “stinky” drywall problem.

But how do we know which homes got Chinese drywall? As you will recall, we had a major housing boom (a long, long time ago) and drywall was in hot demand. Builders were looking for a source for drywall from anywhere and anybody. So we bought from the Chinese and it happened to have a high sulfur content or something similar which caused a bunch of problems. Well, I guess it’s good we live in America where we regulate what goes into drywall, baby food, dog food, paint for kids toys, etc. But we are a global economy and get products from all over the world-like Chinese drywall for example. Anyway, once it went into homes, how do they know which home got Chinese drywall? Absent a complaint, how do we know which houses to investigate and which walls to replace?

RECORDS. RECORDS. RECORDS. According to the May 17, 2010 Wall Street Journal story covering this matter, “Builders will have to document that their problem drywall did indeed come from KPT (the Chinese drywall manufacturer)and show reasonable repair costs”. Ok, got it-have records to show they bought Chinese drywall, records where the drywall was installed and records to prove expenses. We live in a world where records allow business to happen. Without them we are “business naked”.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Not Good. Not Bad. Just Are.

I am often asked if Records Retention should consider the likelihood of being forced to produce records in a lawsuit. My response--records are neither good nor bad, They just are. And you manage them without regard to how they may impact you later on. Sometime they can really offer up protection not just be the treasure trove of smoking guns. Take for example the recent move by the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has been rocked with endless sexual abuse scandals in which it has been widely reported that the Church “covered” up numerous egregious child molestations for years across the globe. Now the Church is going to use its records to come clean. According to the Wall Street Journal on May 7, 2010, “Roman Catholic bishops in countries across Europe are trying to get ahead of a widening sexual-abuse scandal by employing a potentially risky strategy—pre-emptively digging through church archives to see what skeletons remain to be unearthed”

Monday, May 3, 2010

Manage your email.

Poor “Fab”. You ask me, "Who is or what is Fab?" He is Fabrice Tourre, a highly compensated French speaking financial guru at the epicenter of the Goldman debacle clouding Wall Street and Washington these days. He is the guy who wrote the email “suggesting” that the investments Goldman was involved with were not nearly as attractive as they wanted others to believe. I don’t really want to get into the Goldman case or what Fab knew or didn’t know. Rather, I wanted to go back to the 50,000 pound gorilla in the room. The point is best stated by the April 29, 2010 Wall Street Journal Article entitled, “Backlash Against Email Builds”. Don’t blame the messenger for the idiotic actions of your colleagues. As far back as “Email Rules” I was telling you to manage the medium. If done right it is your organization’s best productivity tool. When mismanaged it is a major source of headache. Duh. Fab was doing his job. Maybe he was saying stuff he shouldn’t have. Maybe he was being flip. Whatever. Get over it and manage it. And perhaps you need more training. Have I got a training session for you :)