This is one of a series of posts about events in which I was involved in last week. The management of electronic information goes wider than the formal requirements of litigation, regulation and investigation, and takes you into areas both industry-specific and of universal application. A common theme is (or should be) risk – risk assessment and risk management in all its many forms.
If the overall context in this short series of posts is future careers, then energy seems a good place to go, whether you are a scientist, an investor or interested in regulation and disputes, which is why it was on my agenda. In The Graduate (1967) Benjamin Braddock is given the one-word advice “Plastics”; I think “Energy” may be today’s equivalent.
Energy risk was the subject of a discussion to which I was invited last week by Simon Price of Recommind. He, I and John Gilbert of Pinsent Masons were there to help drive a discussion about the different business implications of energy risk. John Gilbert identified ten classes of risk faced by those involved in the energy industry. His list, and the ensuing discussion, supports the idea that energy is the next big area for disputes and regulatory intervention, following and overlapping with those in the financial sector.
Simon Price led us through some broad areas likely to be the source of problems. The nearest I have come to energy risk was driving past Buncefield on the day it blew up, a sight easily confused with the apocalypse. Energy extraction, generation and transport brings danger to life and limb not always present in other markets. I was thought cynical in suggesting that, such dangers apart, energy companies will treat much regulation lightly, with companies aiming to identify the minimum necessary to be compliant. Someone else, with more hands-on involvement that I can claim, chipped in to support my cynicism.
Wearing my disputes / eDiscovery / Information Governance hat, I found most interesting a discussion about the accessibility of information about old installations – gas pipes, for example, laid by a predecessor company decades ago, whose course, specification and construction were mysteries to all. If you want an extreme example of the need to start organising a company’s information, this is it. Information critical to the company’s future – its value and its reputation – lies buried as deeply as an old gas pipe, with the same potential to blow up in your face. Having found the relevant documents, one might then decide that the risk is small or that its implications are not worth worrying about, but that is an informed decision, not something which catches you by surprise. As I recall it, Buncefield blew up at dawn on a Sunday, not a great time to start looking for information.
PS: I wrote this earlier this week. Today we learn that Mike Nichols, who directed The Graduate, is dead. The “plastics” scene is not the most famous in the script, but it helps illustrate the idea that there is always some new career opportunity coming along, and more year by year. Information governance is much more interesting than plastics.