Information Governance

Information Management: A Not Quite Comprehensive Timeline

Look back towards the future


Carl Sagan once famously remarked that we must know the past to understand our present. Technology is constantly evolving, changing how we understand the world around us. The past, however, is still our most valuable lens, giving context into the intricate relationship between technology, regulation, and industry trends.

From the simple storage solutions of the early 2000s to the complex, integrated solutions of today, the ways in which we approach information management have changed drastically over the last two decades. To understand where we will go next, let’s start at the beginning.

2000: Reduce Storage and IT Overload 

At the turn of the century, physical documents dominated the records landscape. Even as organizations rapidly adopted new technologies, important documents required physical copies, as they had to be physically signed. This changed when the ESIGN Act was signed into law June 2000. The Act, which established the legitimacy of signing documents and contracts electronically, radically changed the records management paradigm. No longer must all documents be stored in cluttered file rooms or storage vaults. Records management processes could now be moved online. This led to a surge in digital storage technologies, with organizations prioritizing those that best reduced storage cost and administrative overhead while boosting email and server performance.

2002: Maintain Control and Minimize Risk

In the wake of the infamous Enron Scandal, a multitude of new regulations and legislative measures were imposed to reduce the likelihood of such an event happening again. Of these, the most significant was the Sarbanes-Oxley Act which moderated the accountability and reporting procedures for publicly traded companies. It also imposed new penalties for destruction and/or alteration of financial records.

As a result of new legislation and Enron’s very public fall from grace, corporate governance and compliance measures gained prominence. Corporations began to prioritize tamper-proof storage, content controls, and review capabilities. It had never been more important for technology to facilitate 100% capture, index, store, and search. No one wanted to be the next Enron.

2006: Support Litigation and Slash Costs

As we’ve discussed in previous posts, the 2006 FRCP amendments on eDiscovery fundamentally changed how organizations approached records. After the amendment took effect, digital records became fair game in litigation. This made the discovery process more complex: there were suddenly exponentially more documents to sift through with significantly less process in place to do just that.

As such, new technologies popped up to aid in search, case management, legal hold, attorney-client privilege, and other important new processes. Such technology had to locate all relevant documents to avoid spoliation charges but also had to avoid capturing unnecessary documents which could dramatically increase review costs.

2008: Retain Electronic Corporate Records

Over the past decade, organizations were left playing catch up to myriad new regulations, constantly hiring more attorneys and adopting new technologies. While regulations all contain retention requirements, they were rarely handled proactively before. In 2008, a few legislative changes (such as the new Safety Improvement Act of 2008 and a revision to the Fair Labor Standards), in combination with recent improvements in record-keeping technology, allowed records departments to better control and manage retention. At this point, enforcing document-level, granular policies and enabling automated, electronic records retention became a priority.

2012: Manage “Big Data” for Strategic Advantage

In 2012, technology, not regulation, took the fore. Improvements in “big data” analytics allowed organizations to monetize data that had been sitting around for years and capitalize upon new consumer insights. While structured data (i.e. databases) were the sources of most of these new insights, some came from less traditional sources.

For instance, employee emails could be analyzed to predict those most likely to quit, and social media channels could be analyzed to discover means for optimizing storefront experience. As technology advanced, data became more than risk: it provided strategic advantage. There was more to corporate data than just compliance. If there wasn’t, it would all be deleted as soon as legally possible. But, when used effectively, corporate data is an organization's most valuable resource.

Today: The Privacy Revolution

Over the past two decades, we’ve seen many significant changes in how organizations manage their data. And we could be seeing even more changes ahead due to an increase in privacy awareness, stemming in part from the newly implemented GDPR as well as public controversies. Regardless of how the industry turns, one thing is clear: your data’s an important asset, and it’s never been more important to control it.

As a content and events specialist at ZL, I work to bring the glamorous allure of information governance to the world. As a native Virginian and temporary Tennessean turned Californian, I’m permanently fascinated by life on the west coast. Although I miss SEC football and four distinct seasons, I’m in love with redwood forests and bubble tea on every corner.