Junk. Digital debris. eTrash.
At times, it’s uncanny how many garbage-related euphemisms exist in the information governance sphere, paradoxically in an era where the purposed power of analytics promises to unlock insight from the tiniest breadcrumb trails of data. One man’s trash is another’s treasure. But no matter where the garbage ends up at the end of the day, it belongs to someone. How you decide to handle your perceived trash will have major impact on the enterprise at large, at least in terms of information governance.
Perhaps I have some hands-on experience. I’ve had the pleasure of spending a few of my formative summers working for a construction company in beautiful Pennsylvania’s heat and humidity. When you’re the youngest of the bunch, there are some special jobs made just for you.
On a particularly lucky week, one of these jobs was to clean and organize the four dumpsters on the worksite. The dumpsters – which had previously been employed as catch-all containers for debris – were now to be organized for the final two week push of the project. Two dumpsters would be devoted to trash and scraps of non-usable wood; one dumpster was to stockpile big, usable pieces of wood; and the third was to store scraps of copper and other valuables that, if unused, could be exchanged for money after the project was over.
Two 10-hour days later, all was right with the dumpsters. The new “dumpster system” allowed the workers to easily distinguish where all trash should go, providing a pool of 2x4s to be used for any extra work. And it offered a container for valuable metals that would be easy to transport for the truck-driver tasked with exchanging them (the metals had previously been designated to an empty corner within the building).
There are many different groups on a worksite – plumbers, painters, carpenters, etc. – and all are working on separate projects but toward the same overall goal. Any project that effects everyone onsite – even tasks like dumpster organization – have to be done with the end goal in mind. If we’re not all on the same page, it leads to an inefficient process and usually a lot more work for someone (guess who) down the line.
You’re probably wondering why any of this matters. Chill, let me get there.
I travelled to the Managing Electronic Records (MER) conference a couple weeks ago in Chicago. One of the hot-button issues this year was the idea of “managing data in place.” Many organizations have focused their resources on providing users with outward-facing workflow tools (email, SharePoint, ECMs, legal suites) but haven’t done much managing of data on the back-end. Without an archive or proper information governance solution, the end-result is that data builds up tremendously. So much so, it’s to the point that it’s impossible to know what exists in the company’s environment (or dumpster, eh?) due to the sheer volume.
“Managing data in place” is the idea of taking inventory of this data before fully implementing an archiving solution. Indexing all of this data allows companies to purge what they don’t need, and begin archiving with only necessary data in their environment. Many companies view this as the first step towards the eventual goal of information governance – and they’re correct – but I found there isn’t enough attention on how manage-in-place is done, just the acknowledgement that it has to be done.
For the most part, the information governance campseems to agree that a centralized data management system is the way to go. No longer are we viewing proper information governance as a checklist of needs met by separate point solutions. We’ve accepted the fact that complete control means storing the data in one location, and having the applications use that data – rather than copying the data to be sent to multiple, separate applications.
The idea is that the most efficient information governance system performs all aspects of data management under one roof, with one place providing a complete vision into all of your content. Why then, do some companies think it’s efficient to hire an outside consultant or employ an entirely foreign software to perform the manage-in-place process? The short answer is that this business need is a financial opportunity for small, point solutions – we saw the same thing happen with legal hold tools when electronic preservation was at the forefront. Companies take the step that they believe is correct by using a new tool, but in the long run this process leaves them with multiple systems trying to coexist in their environment: essentially the opposite of true information governance.
Imagine if the dumpster assignment was dictated by someone new to the worksite that day, or if I had been taking orders from one of the plumbers – someone who had a general idea of what we were doing. I would have acted according to their specific wishes, and we probably would have been left with a system that wasn’t most efficient for the group.
Manage-in-place archiving is absolutely a great first step in achieving information governance, but why use a tool that can’t communicate with the archive that will be leveraging the data in the long run? I see an opportunity for consultants and specific manage-in-place solutions to strike while the iron is hot. Hopefully there are people within the companies that have a better vision of the big picture, and will choose to use a solution for manage-in-place that will also be their information governance tool.