How to Incorporate Legacy Information Clean-up into your Go Forward Strategy for Information Management

By Johannes Scholtes posted 08-17-2010 07:48

As the average rate of information growth in organizations holds steady at 30-40% per year ('s_law), this is and will continue to create huge problems and liabilities that need to be addressed. More and more people are aware of the problem, but few know how to take action, let alone how to implement procedures and policies to battle the ongoing information explosion. Governments and many organizations that operate in regulated industries such as the pharmaceutical, airplane maintenance and financial industries have implemented records management policies to help achieve compliance with various regulations and governance requirements. Sometimes these records management initiatives address all information that is created in such an organization, but often it only covers a portion. This leaves a considerable amount of risk on the table. In addition, as Gartner’s Debra Logan stated, in many other organizations, everybody is responsible for their own records management, which more or less results in the fact that nobody does it. These organizations should strongly consider the following risks and opportunities: 1. eDiscovery costs and risks will be much higher; according to Gartner, organizations that do not have content archiving policies in place will have 30% higher eDiscovery costs. 2. Better Early Case Assessment (ECA) is only possible if you know what information sources you have and what is in there. In order to determine which custodians are involved and what really went on, you need organized data collections, advanced exploratory search, content analytics and other tools to search and analyze all of your relevant corporate data in real-time. The better you apply information management principles, the easier this is. 3. Should your organization plan to sell-off divisions, then you should have all your records and files organized by division or by topic and not only by custodian / month (as many organizations do to archive their email). The cost of splitting such information will be tremendous and it will take a lot of effort and resources from your employees. 4. You will save a considerable amount on your storage and backup costs if you implement information and records management. 5. Proper Knowledge Management is only possible if you have organized and cleaned up all your information. You will need to apply Information Valuation principles and remove irrelevant and redundant information. Essential “lessons learned” should be well organized and easily accessible by using taxonomy and other access tools. Organizations should quickly turn their attention to proper information management and records management policies for this continually growing pool of new information. But once those policies are in place, what should one do with all the legacy information? Gaining control over the vast amounts of legacy data you already have should be approached in a similar fashion as setting up your go-forward structure for records and information management: 1. Create (as good as possible) a data map of all of your internally and externally stored data. 2. Develop or assess your information retention policies and find out which parts of your data pool are covered and which parts are not. 3. Develop or assess your backup policies. It is common for IT departments to make way too many backup tapes or keep tapes “just in case some asks them for a file from 10 years ago”, thereby exposing the organization to huge additional liability because they keep much more information than that is required by laws and regulations. 4. Once you have a complete overview of all information and policies, assign someone or a team to identify all information that can be removed under your records management policies. Keep only what is really relevant, provides future value for your organization, and contains no additional risk. You will be surprised by how much information can be destroyed. A great example is the US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA): at the end of the day, they only archive a few percent of what is sent to them as well. There is much less relevant data than you think! 5. Implement regular legacy information clean-up and information valuation as part of your roadmap towards a strategic enterprise information management and enterprise information archiving plan. You cannot do everything at once; you will have to implement these large plans step by step, especially if you have not done much in the past. 6. Just as text mining and other content analytics provide huge value in law enforcement, intelligence, and eDiscovery to automatically categorize and organize unstructured data, you can use the same tools to clean up your legacy data. This will help you to reduce the cost and also limit the risks as computers can implement this work faster than human beings can with greater consistency and in an auditable and controllable manner. There are a few topics that will require additional attention: • Email: a complex format, not always fully searchable and often people keep copies at home and elsewhere. Also, the amounts keep growing and growing. • MS-SharePoint repositories: in many organizations, unstructured file shares have been replaced by MS-SharePoint. As a result, we are now creating large unstructured data collections in MS SharePoint, which is harder to access than the old file shares. • There are many more proprietary repositories that contain data that you need access to. • More and more data will contain and consist of sound, pictures, video and other multimedia information that cannot be searched easily, if at all. • The Cloud: soon much of your data will be everywhere and nowhere. You will need to have well defined service level agreements with your cloud, SaaS or outsourcing partners to make sure that you have access to your corporate data when you need it and that it is actually destroyed or transferred when required. Most organizations understand the need of records management and enterprise information archiving. But as part of this process, don’t forget about taking care of the legacy information. According to Gartner, depending on the organization, 10-90% of information that is kept doesn’t need to be for any reason at all. If your organization is on the 90% side, you can make some improvements as well! There is more than enough technology to help you clean up your legacy data in an affordable manner. Also, there are several specialized service providers that can help you with the process and who can apply the technology for you. But not doing anything about legacy information will create much larger problems and significantly higher cost and risk for your organization in the near future!

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