Lately I've been thinking a lot about a Malcolm Gladwell essay, "The Pitchman: Ron Popeil and the Conquest of the American Kitchen." For anyone who doesn't know Ron Popeil, he is the king of infomercials and comes from a rich family history of gadget marketers. He introduced us to such products as the Chop-O-Matic hand food processor, the Dial-O-Matic — successor to the Veg-O-Matic, the Ronco Pocket Fisherman (a personal favorite), and the Giant Dehydrator and Beef Jerky Machine (one can never have enough jerky). He is perhaps best known for the Showtime Rotisserie & BBQ, which sold over 8 million units in the U.S. alone via commercials like this:

The tagline for the Showtime Rotisserie is "Set It and Forget It!” Setting it and forgetting it also happens to be the key to effective information governance in the Microsoft 365 environment.

Microsoft 365: A Complex Environment Grows in Complexity

Anyone who oversees their organization’s use of Microsoft 365 knows the volume of content in the environment is scaling rapidly. But so too is the variety of content. Users who have gazed upon the 25 (yes, 25!) icons that pop up when you log into Microsoft 365 may not know what on earth they all do, but they do realize there's more going on here than just storing Word and PowerPoint files in SharePoint. And the situation grows more complex by the day, with the COVID-19 driven Teams explosion leading the charge.

For years, it has been an article of faith among records manager types that SharePoint was insufficient on its own to meet governance needs, additional solutions are needed to sit on top of SharePoint. This assumption will get tested as the cloud accelerates the information chaos driven by the rising tide of volume and variety.

Which brings me back to Ron Popeil. Everyone knows the cloud is accelerating the pace of change. Long-term, I think it will also make it more and more difficult for third party add-ons to keep up with Microsoft 365's pace. Microsoft's recent announcements about automated governance and records management clearly point to the company making significant investments in a “Set It and Forget It” strategy when it comes to records and governance.

Related Article: Beware the Lasting Impact of a Microsoft 365 Non-Decision

Governance Gets Simple(r)

The key to understanding the pivot Microsoft is making is Unified Labels and Label Policies for managing information across Microsoft 365, as well new administrative tools like the Compliance Center, Compliance Score, Content Search, Data Investigations and Legal Holds.

Learning Opportunities offered this assessment:

A lot of collaborative work happens now in M365. Apps can be built or bought on top of the platform to meet unique business needs, and components can be made available within different business applications (e.g., store SAP files in M365). Hence, the idea that important information (e.g. records) should be moved to a separate repository (e.g. central archive) is outdated. This only works for records that are rarely retrieved. Active records need to be available in context with relevant documents and tasks. These records need to be managed by — or within — the platform.

Of course, none of this is as simple as it sounds. The business strategies that underpin technology investments must be more carefully thought out than ever before. But simple is emerging as a key design element in these governance strategies.

Related Article: Digital Governance vs. Office 365 Governance: Which Do You Need?

You Too Can Be the Ron Popeil of Information Governance

As the intensifying shift to the cloud drives platform and process standardization, organizations must rethink their existing Rube Goldberg hodge-podge of paper-derived governance and records systems that rely on knowledge workers for their execution and elaborate federation strategies for their effectiveness. It’s time to reimagine what kinds of business strategies are necessary to establish a true “Set It and Forget It” approach to information governance.