I don’t know how to explain this, but I never really grew out of my love for Disney movies. The Lion King sits on a pedestal as one of the “Top 3 Movies Ever” on the abstract list in my head. Cruella de Vil haunted my nightmares well into college. And to add a little nostalgia, I remember writhing in agonizing fits of laughter at the late Robin Williams’ Genie character in Aladdin, may he rest in peace.
Respects aside, I never imagined that I could ever bring a Disney concept into the often mind-numbing arena of Information Governance. My selection for your bedtime story is Alice in Wonderland.
Admittedly, there are a few ways I could go about this one. I could set the scene with Alice as the flustered CIO, and the Cheshire Cat as the vexing analyst industry armed with a mischievous grin. Wonderland itself could easily be the bewildering realm of tech vendors where nothing is quite what it seems. That, however, would be far too simple. Since I appreciate a challenge, I’d rather draw on some scientific allusions to add further color a tale already known for its psychedelic overtones.
Analogous to the “Red Queen Hypothesis” in biology, the term “Red Queen Effect” was brought up at the most recent ARMA conference that I attended. It referred to the constant battle between the enterprise and the technology it employs. To quote the Red Queen from the original passage in Lewis Carroll’s novel, Through the Looking-Glass, “Here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.” In the Disney movie, no matter how fast Alice runs, the Queen is in constant pursuit. Her acceleration only causes the Queen to gain more ground. Relatively, the Queen was always moving one step faster. If Alice were riding a rocket, the Queen would pull up next to her in the Millennium Falcon.
The Red Queen Effect occurs when an enterprise procures a new piece of technology that generates data. Eventually, simply by usage, the data that is produced causes the system to deteriorate. It is the same reason why replacing your old, overused ECM with a new, shiny one only exacerbates the problem of managing that data. This leaves your enterprise exposed to significant risk by scattering undetectable “dark data” across your email, ECM, file shares, and other silos. Let’s take a look at a specific example: SharePoint.
Wendy Neal, SharePoint Consultant for McGladrey, brings up an excellent point: maybe a SharePoint upgrade is not really an upgrade at all. In her recent article, she asserts that the “upgrade” is fundamentally a migration once you strip it of its tech jargon clothing. Several steps are outlined to make the migration as smooth as possible, but the idea behind all of these suggestions is PLANNING. Migrating from SharePoint 2010 to 2013 (or even worse, playing hopscotch between 2007 and 2013) must be carefully planned to avoid turning your old mess into a new one with a different interface.
As more data is created and less is deleted, mirroring the trend of the past 20 years, these systems become weighed down to the point that they’re detrimental to their original purpose: managing content from across the enterprise. Instead, as with most ECM’s, the tool becomes an unruly dumping ground for content with no way to execute retention across copies, sites, or site collections. In short, the very tools that IT employs use to “run” away (from the Red Queen, and toward a solution) end up causing more problems, risks, and exposure: hence slowing IT to a crawl. An enterprise with a complicated environment will face more complicated problems than an enterprise with a simpler one.
So how does an organization simplify their environment without sacrificing workflow, process, and production? The answer lies not in adding or removing horizontal systems, but rather in adding vertical layers of control. At ZL, we call this concept the management layer. This layer/repository puts a gap between your tools (Alice) and the data in constant pursuit (the Red Queen) by eliminating silos in real time. By storing the data from these multiple tools in one repository, an enterprise can ensure that each tool is as lean as desired – by offloading content to a more effective control environment -- while also reducing the risk profile. When a piece of data is saved, it is immediately sent to this layer to be classified, assigned a retention period, checked for duplicates elsewhere, and so forth, using one code base. The original copy as well as any duplicates can be defensively disposed of. And next time you need to find something, you can search once in the holistic management layer instead of having to scour several disparate silos.
Fortunately, Alice, ZL has a real world solution for the Red Queen effect. In a sense, it is the same solution as separating two feuding children. By placing a medium between them, they can no longer bicker. To that point, managing “at rest” data together in the same layer keeps that very data under control.
So for a final thought about my affinity for Disney movies: since ZL obviously runs our own software in house, you can rest assured that all of the taunting emails I receive are readily available to our GC. Scar, Cruella, and Jafar have nothing on that.