Navigating The Global Digital Economy – An Interview with April Dmytrenko, CRM, FAI

Seventh in a series of in-depth interviews with innovators and leaders in the fields of Risk, Compliance and Information Governance across the globe.

April Dmytrenko - Information Governance Perspectives

April Dmytrenko, CRM, FAI is a recognized thought leader in the field of information management, governance, compliance, and protection. As both a practioner and consultant, she works with global organizations on key initiatives and best practice approaches for the enterprise; developing sustainable solutions; integrating legally compliant programs focused on information/digital assets; motivating and facilitating multi-disciplined groups to collaborate on achievable goals; and building strategic partnerships with internal and external teams. She serves on industry action committees and governing and editorial boards, and is an active industry speaker, trainer, and author. I had the pleasure of sitting down with April this September to discuss privacy, the role of industry associations and key concerns for leaders navigating the global digital economy.

April, almost five years ago I asked what the next big frontier would be for those of us managing data, and more importantly where the jobs would be. You wisely predicted that privacy would be on the horizon. Well we now have a number of legislatures drafting regulations and CPO positions can’t seem to be filled quickly enough. Do you believe there is still time to enter this emerging field and make an impact?

Right now we are experiencing an amazing transformation of the business environment based on many things but particularly the evolution of technology and the global digital economy. It is indeed an exciting time but we are acutely “headline news” aware of the impacts of compromised data security and privacy, including financial impact on brand and reputation, litigation, and the overall burden and distraction on the business. The exponential growth rate of incidents of data theft, damage, loss or inadvertent disclosure continues to expand not only in frequency but scope, and complexity. While privacy concerns gained attention over 100 years ago, and became topical about 15 years ago, it is still truly in an infancy state. Privacy offers IG professionals a rich and important opportunity to expand their leadership or advisory role in maturing a unified approach to protection, compliance with laws and regulations, and incident response and recovery.

April Dmytrenko - Governance - Not Taking Risks
Courtesy ARMA International

In your role as a fellow of ARMA International, you’ve helped to connect organizations with practitioners who truly understand the discipline and benefits of Information Governance. How has this evolved over the years and what steps do you think organizations like ARMA and the ICRM need to keep taking to remain relevant?

This is a great question as the core IG professional organizations have been dealing with an identity crisis for some time, and still struggle to have a clear and concise “elevator speech” on mission and value. IG, while it has a wide breath, has many in the industry confused, and still is a term that does not universally resonate with senior management. These associations have tremendous value and passionate support but numbers speak volumes and membership and conference attendance have been decreasing for years. We are seeing the technology vendor market taking over a leadership role and may serve as the new defining force in setting direction and guiding the industry – self-serving yes but it could be what is needed going forward. I am not concerned about relevance as it will continue to be all about information and technology, and the management, protection and leveraging of information asset. While the role of a traditional Records Manager may not continue to be relevant, I don’t find it concerning – the relevance is in the work and it evolves.

I’m always searching for common threads of wisdom across all of the information management disciplines. Having worked in various industries as both a practitioner and a consultant what principal or pillars do you see as key to successful outcomes in the management of data?

I could get philosophical but I won’t as what I integrate in my approach is the KISS… principle or keeping it simple and includes when identifying a solution, selecting technology, developing taxonomy, writing policy, or planning roll-out of better practices. Simple always wins over complex – and this is certainly key in consideration of the end user and expediting goals. This principle of keeping it simple does not mean time was not invested, analytics were not employed, or strategy was not used in gaining support, or implementing change. Intrinsic is being smart in maximizing simplicity in accomplishing your goals. To quote Albert Einstein: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

What is the most valuable lesson you learned as a practitioner that you were able to transfer into the world of consulting?

I learned so much as a practitioner in building and sustaining compliant programs. Part of that was my good fortune of working in a variety of industries with diverse corporate cultures that provided me with unyielding challenges and continuous learning opportunities. My practitioner years prepared me well for the world of consulting as I realized, early on, as a practitioner you are really an internal consultant too. My most valuable lesson was the importance of being able to connect with my organization decision makers in a way that was meaningful to them and the organizations. As RIM/IG requires and enterprise-wide approach, I developed an instinct for understanding and aligning with the greater business goals. And like any business manager, I recognized I needed to be savvy in getting sustained support and budget for my initiatives. All my peers were after the same and RIM has long been considered an overhead operation that is far from being mission critical. Of course I totally disagree as I know what we do supports the bottom line.

What I brought to consulting was the keen understanding of the practitioner challenges, and helping them to reinforce/elevate their needs for creating importance. Having sat on their side of the conference room table, I know sometimes what is the right next step might not align with right now for senior management or the organization. RIM/IG initiatives do have a best practices order for executing, but it is better to get support for some now and prove value than to have no support. I respect the practitioner and strive, knowing that when my work with a client has been completed, to ensure they are in a better place, feeling more empowered going forward.

This principle of keeping it simple does not mean time was not invested, analytics were not employed, or strategy was not used in gaining support, or implementing change. Intrinsic is being smart in maximizing simplicity in accomplishing your goals.

Of the five major emerging areas, big data, blockchain, IOT, quantum computing and artificial intelligence, which do you think will require the most attention from records management and information technology leaders and why?

As I noted, now couldn’t be a more exciting, fascinating, challenging time for our profession around technology. These five emerging areas I see as having many converging elements and, with time, could change business and our roles as we know it today. What I think will require the most attention from RIM and IT leaders is not related to any one area, but having the ability to stop and invest the time, without impeding progress, on a strategic vision and path. Too many organizations have a reactive rather than a proactive approach regardless of technology and emerging areas. As a result, continual “budget-year” investments can be made based on limited view aspects, many times without much involvement by the business groups or consideration of where the business as a whole is headed. The precedence-norm of fast decision making over smart is compromising organizations in a variety of profound ways, including a chaotic information environment. Part of the vision needs to include managing the growing volume of content while maximizing its asset value, otherwise organizations will always be reacting and encumbered by addressing past investments and splintered tools supporting silo’d groups.


Written by 

Rafael Moscatel is an award-winning Information Governance Professional (IGP), Certified Records Manager (CRM), author and speaker. He has spent the last twenty years developing large-scale Information Management Programs for Fortune 500 companies including Paramount Pictures and Farmers Insurance. In 2015, he partnered with Stanford University and produced The Little Girl with the Big Voice, an acclaimed documentary based on archives and the Doctrine of Fair Use. He was honored with the Excellence for an Organization Award by ARMA International in 2017 and speaks regularly at industry conferences about the evolving discipline of Records and Information Governance.