Directing The Flow Of Information – An Interview with Jones Lukose of The International Criminal Court

Second in a series of interviews with leaders in the fields of Risk, Compliance and Information Governance across the globe.

Jones LukoseJones 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 its 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?

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The Paperless Office

By Rafael Moscatel

The extent to which any organization can reduce its dependency on paper is largely determined by laws and the industry regulations it faces, the technology available to it and how well its leaders manage change, internally as well as for customers.

Here are some thoughts on how to begin solving the paper problem around your office:

Understand the affordances of paper  One of the most thorough examinations of the issue of paper and its role in our lives and workplaces came in 2002 when MIT press published The Myth of the Paperless Office.  The book’s findings make a case for the “affordances of paper” and stress that to reduce paper production and consumption we must understand the underlying habits and processes driving how our clients and colleagues work.

Attorneys for example often require a contextual or “case at a glance” perspective that a chronological or issue focused file offers… a “story telling” approach to presenting information which can’t always be matched even with the best software. Similarly, auditors or project managers will often work with and create aggregated records which serve a specific purpose for which imaging might be overkill or too costly. And contrary to popular belief, there still exist quite a few scenarios where it remains more affordable, practical and efficient to even store information in paper form. Conversion costs and risks required to maintain the digital lifecycle of infrequently referenced documents and avoid bitrot* can often exceed those associated with retaining the same materials in paper form.

Make the right policy changes with executive level support  Every Records or Information Governance policy initiative or project your business undertakes should have senior level executive support and reflect the best practices within your industry.

Here are some policy and procedural ideas to consider that can act as catalysts for change.

  • Get a Retention Policy / Schedule, implement it and regularly enforce it -A Retention Schedule (often in line with a data map) is the most effective tool for properly managing records and information and its necessity cannot be understated.  It not only protects an organization and keeps paper and electronic storage costs low, it gives executives a tool for understanding and navigating the massive network of silos and records their businesses create.
  • Institute an E-signature Policy for all contracts under a specified financial threshold
  • De-duplicate emails and all other electronic content repositories systematically
  • Identify where duplicates are created, determine why and what can be done to prevent them going forward
  • Take a “final draft and / or executed version” approach to your document lifecycle rules
  • Establish “uniform” email retention rules.  For example –  enforced retention period, tools and rules for what to do with attachments
  • Standardize e-mail signatures corporate wide
  • Discourage personal chronological or “work” files
  • Place restrictions on file shares and acceptable file formats within repositories
  • Evaluate all forms and documents in all files to identify consolidation opportunities and streamline workflows
  • Train employees to properly recognize records and understand legal holds and custodianship

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The Myth of the Paperless Office – 12 Years Later

It’s been 12 years since I first read Abigal J. Sellen and Richard H.R. Harper’s book, The Myth of the Paperless Office.  It remains one of my favorite no nonsense analysis into the subject.

This bold and insightful analysis by two Microsoft employees into the psychological and practical reasons why certain business processes continue to rely on paper remains relevant even a decade after its publication. The book is especially helpful for records and information governance consultants more intent on providing their clients with a true understanding of the nature of their processes than selling them software solutions driven by buzz phrases including “The Paperless Office.”

Companies should certainly move toward imaging and digitization when feasible but the best solutions always require a sophisticated approach to rebuilding processes that recognize both opportunities, limitations and human nature.

Below is the blurb on the book from

Over the past thirty years, many people have proclaimed the imminent arrival of the paperless office. Yet even the World Wide Web, which allows almost any computer to read and display another computer’s documents, has increased the amount of printing done. The use of e-mail in an organization causes an average 40 percent increase in paper consumption. In The Myth of the Paperless Office, Abigail Sellen and Richard Harper use the study of paper as a way to understand the work that people do and the reasons they do it the way they do. Using the tools of ethnography and cognitive psychology, they look at paper use from the level of the individual up to that of organizational culture.Central to Sellen and Harper’s investigation is the concept of “affordances” — the activities that an object allows, or affords. The physical properties of paper (its being thin, light, porous, opaque, and flexible) afford the human actions of grasping, carrying, folding, writing, and so on. The concept of affordance allows them to compare the affordances of paper with those of existing digital devices. They can then ask what kinds of devices or systems would make new kinds of activities possible or better support current activities. The authors argue that paper will continue to play an important role in office life. Rather than pursue the ideal of the paperless office, we should work toward a future in which paper and electronic document tools work in concert and organizational processes make optimal use of both.

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