Over the years I’ve written a lot about the benefits of enterprise file consolidation, i.e., storing and managing unstructured data in a common repository. In fact, most companies still have data spread around the enterprise in distinct stand-alone data silos (usually unmanaged at the file level) including custodian computers, removable media, personal cloud accounts, file systems, email systems, and SharePoint servers (to name just a few). Companies run the risk of experiencing eDiscovery and regulatory issues, the inability to run effective data analytics processes, and lower employee productivity.
A couple of weeks ago I sat in on a presentation about the legal profession and information governance hosted by two attorneys. The presentation was very good however a couple of things set my teeth on edge. The two attorneys presenting started the discussion by pointing out that content is everywhere, is always changing, and is under increased scrutiny, and because of that can be a major headache for attorneys during discovery and for compliance personnel responding to information requests from government agencies. Hard to disagree with that.
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I am going to revisit a topic I have blogged about before, mostly because of the feedback I received at Microsoft Ignite last month (September) - that of records management versus information governance. To state the obvious up front; records management does not equal information governance and here is why.
In a couple of blogs over the last month, I have mentioned the possibility of Predictive Information Governance (PIG) - automated information governance based on unsupervised machine learning technology. Just like the name implies, unsupervised machine learning (computers teaching themselves) removes the iterative manual training cycles of the learning process and allows the system to automatically categorize, store, apply retention/disposition, and manage content as it flows within the system.
For centuries, records/information managers have had to rely on end-users to take the first, second, and third steps in information governance which are: Make a decision on a document as to whether it should be retained Decide how long it should be kept (retention period) And actually take the step to move the document somewhere for safekeeping and management. Over the last 15 to 20 years, many companies have marketed and sold “records management systems” that would supposedly make information management much easier. However, these systems didn’t address the 3 points above; the reliance on end users to initiate the process and to make decisions on the importance of the content.
The consolidation in the Information Governance industry continues. Recently HP announced its decision to sell its software business to Micro Focus for $8.8 billion which includes its Information Management and Governance business. These software assets include HP RISS, Mimosa NearPoint, CA Messenger, Zantaz EAS, Zantaz Digital Safe, and the Iron Mountain Digital Hosted Archive.
Organizations habitually over-retain information, especially unstructured electronic information, for many reasons. However, many organizations simply have not addressed what to do with this data so fall back on relying on individual employees to decide what should be kept and for how long and what should be disposed of. On the opposite end of the grey data management spectrum, a minority of organizations have tried centralized enterprise content management systems and have found them to be difficult to use. In these cases, employees find ways around these complex systems by keeping huge amounts of data locally on their workstations, on enterprise file shares, on removable media, in cloud accounts, or on rogue SharePoint sites that are used as “data dumps” with little or no records management or IT supervision. Much of this information is transitory, expired, or of questionable business value. Because of this lack of active management, information continues to accumulate. This information build-up raises the cost of storage as well as the risk associated with eDiscovery. In some cases the company’s General Counsel actively stops grey data “clean up” processes because they are afraid of being accused of destruction of evidence in a future case.
A couple of years ago the Akron Legal News published an editorial on information governance in law firms. The article by Richard Weiner, explored how law firms are dealing with the transition from rooms filled with hard copy records to terabytes of electronically stored information (ESI) - which includes both firm business records as well as the huge amounts of client eDiscovery content. The article pointed out that these days, ESI flows into law firms so quickly and in such large quantities, no one can actually track the volume much less know what it contains. Law firms have reached an inflection point; change the way information is managed or suffer client dissatisfaction and client loss.