Make business data usable

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E-Discovery, or electronic discovery, refers to any process in which electronic data is sought, located, secured and analyzed. Electronically stored information can include emails, documents, presentations, audio and video files, social media, and websites.

As part of an information governance project, one of the most helpful things an organization can do is to run an audit of its unstructured data (e-Discovery). When organizations understand what data they have, a wide range of possibilities opens up and exposes the need for well-thought-out information governance policies and procedures.

E-Discovery and information governance — a symbiotic relationship

Have you ever heard the phrase, “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine”? This idea of helping someone in order to receive some help in return is the essence of a symbiotic relationship. E-Discovery and information governance can benefit from this type of relationship. On their own, discovery, inventory, retention and disposal do not provide the full picture; e-Discovery is just one driver for a more robust information governance program.

Information governance changes what has typically been a reactive process into a more proactive one by defining what information assets are available and the value that each provides. This ensures that corporate and customer information is secure and easily located. It defines the policies by which information should be controlled and enforces those policies across the company’s information repositories while taking into account all of the necessary and appropriate jurisdictional laws and regulations.

As businesses look at e-Discovery and information governance options, they need to consider the following:

  • Delete Expired Information — Everyone agrees that the “keep it forever” mentality that has existed for years is not cost effective. Companies must have policies that enforce the deletion of redundant, obsolete and trivial data as well as information that has met its legal and regulatory retention requirements. This must be done in an auditable manner to ensure compliance — which will protect companies from future litigation. Most organizations should conclude that content discovery and cleanup is a great first step to modern retention implementation.
  • Defined Process — Embedding the information governance program and retention management process with the content cleanup process ensures the organization has an end-to-end flow of how information should be governed, collected, used and produced.
  • Proactive Information Approach Having a proactive approach to e-Discovery delivers value to the organization when it must collect information from multiple resources. The benefit of being proactive is that the information is under control. This provides a state of readiness and a streamlined response for time-sensitive and on-demand information requests.
  • Analysis — Unstructured content, once classified, becomes structured and therefore findable, usable and manageable throughout its life cycle. Structuring data using classification will move the organization a long way toward information governance standards.
  • Staff Effort — With a definition of “clean” in place, a lot of cleanup is possible without huge staff effort. Also, with properly engaged management, the main issue of “over-review” due to staff concerns about cleanup risks should not be a problem. That is, if the cleanup is supported by management, defensible and done in good faith, those executing it should not be concerned and feel the need to explicitly scrutinize every file.

Content cleanup is best considered part of a broader approach to information governance. In many ways, it is a key first step because it can actually be connected to real savings (be they in-year operational or longer term avoidance) and therefore provides a budget to acquire the technologies, processes and skills that will be needed to implement many other parts of an information governance strategy.

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