A Cavalcade Of Tourists

By Nicholas Inglis posted 08-19-2013 15:14


Fall is about to arrive and with it, in New England comes the turning of leaves. The hillsides burst into a dazzling array of color prompting tourists to arrive in cavalcades. Content, too, should likewise have it's season, a highly defined season, one that you could set your tourism schedule to.

We seem to have a pack rat mentality when it comes to storing our information. We have the television show Hoarders when we do this as individuals, but I'm sure that as organizations, we are just as disgusting as the most vile episodes of the show. There are a couple of factors that seem to be influencing us.

Employee Turnover
We keep our information long beyond its usefulness in itself, the employees who were our content authors have long since found new jobs and new careers as our company's turnover rates grow ever faster. When content does not get passed in its ownership to a successor we leave behind orphan content and our information management systems, shared drives and hard drives are orphanages beyond capacity.

Laziness and Will
Who wants to own the project of disposing of old content? Without a solid metadata model being in place for years, your unlikely to be able to tell the wheat from the chaff of your information. That said, the hard work of disposing is often left to... well, no one.

Big Data & The Promise of Usefulness
Now that we're in the age of Big Data we seem to have this belief that all old, dead information will once again take on new life and new purpose. The fact is, that this content zombie apocalypse is unlikely to happen for most content. It is much easier to run analysis on structured data than it is on unstructured data. This means that it is more likely that structured data may be analyzed well past it's supposed usefulness but what companies are going to spend the resources needed to run that same analysis on old unstructured data? The unstructured is likely to be used for more current analysis, leaving the old and dead where it remains, still.

The Problem
The problem with all of this old, indisposed information is that no one knows where the bodies lie any longer. We're creating information at a breakneck pace without the overset that we once used to be able to affect on our data and processes. If there are or were employees who are or were performing activities in your organization improperly, we've likely surpassed our ability to take note in every case. This leaves behind a trail of damning information which, potentially, hold us in liability. Without disposition, we continue to leave open the potential for discovery of this information, that we could have already disposed.

Like taking a rake to the leaves and disposing of it in piles, we need to ensure that we are disposing of our content that has had it's season and has turned. Otherwise, the cavalcade coming to your doors won't be tourists but will be litigation attorneys.

#InformationGovernance #contentdisposal #disposition #ElectronicRecordsManagement
1 comment



08-19-2013 16:57

You have positioned the biggest problem in companies and organizations today in a very brief and articulate way Nick. Despite our technology advances that allow us to find information quickly, we have not countered that by asking the questions you raise above.
Do we really need to keep this content? if so, why? If they can't answer that, then you know problems like ahead.
The ability to find "anything" and "everything" opens you up to potential discovery during litigation and even more lawsuits after settle the one that got you in trouble in the first place. Once somebody knows you are vulnerable they will take advantage of the situation.
This should be a wake-up call for all records managers and information management professionals who are tasked with collecting, managing and disposing of content - in any form.
Certainly a good conversation for the water cooler tomorrow morning. And that's not a mistake calling out the water cooler. If you don't carry on your conversations there, and prefer to communicate electronically - they why haven't you made the same transformation with your information?