The Economist Intelligence Unit, in a recent study on information governance, found that the single biggest worldwide challenge to successful adoption of information governance is the difficulty of identifying its benefits and costs. In other words, the difficulty of making the case for information governance (IG).
My next series of posts are designed to help with this problem. Although there is no magic formula or perfect argument for IG, there are many reasons that makes sense today, and will make sense well into the future. These posts won’t try to advance an airtight argument, nor will they propose a detailed financial model. Instead, my posts will be based on observations I have made working in this market over the past decade.[1. Last year I wrote an eBook that laid out what I thought were the ten best reasons for organizations to invest in information governance. That eBook is available for download on the FCS IG website here, but based on several requests from readers, I thought I would adapt some of the content for my blog here.]
#1. We Can’t Keep Everything Forever
“Information workers, who comprise about 63% of the U.S. work force, are each bombarded with 1.6 gigabytes of information on average every day through emails, reports, blogs, text messages, calls and more. . .”
“Don’t You Dare Email This Story,” Wall Street Journal[2. Andrea Coombes, “Don’t you Dare Email This Story,” Wall Street Journal, May 17, 2009. Online at, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124252211780027326.html%5D
In Brief. IG makes sense because it enables organizations to get rid of unnecessary information in a defensible manner. Organizations need a sensible way to dispose of information in order to reduce the cost and complexity of IT environment. Having unnecessary information around only makes it more difficult and expensive to harness information that has value.
Most statistics on the volume of digital information organizations create contain numbers so large that they are hard to comprehend (for example, “the digital universe” is 281 exabytes in size[3. International Data Corporation, “The Diverse and Exploding Digital Universe: An Updated Forecast of Worldwide Information Growth Through 2011,” March 2008.]). Organizations experience 30, 50, or even 100 per cent annual growth in the volume of information they store. The trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Although the cost of storage hardware continues to drop, storage hardware costs are just the beginning. According to International Data Corporation, the total cost of storage ownership “far outweighs the initial purchase price” of the hardware, and includes factors such as migration, outage, performance, information governance, environmental, data protection, maintenance, and staff costs.[4. Nick Sundby, “Storage Economics: Assessing the Real Cost of Storage,” International Data Corporation, December 2008.]
Organizations often claim that they are just keeping a piece of information “for now.” Without a firm plan in place, this really means “keeping it forever.” After all, unless you plan on keeping a piece of information forever, you will need to make a destruction decision about it at some point. Will that destruction decision be easier or more difficult in the future? After all, in three, five, or ten years will:
- You have the software that created the information?
- You have the hardware to read the media that the information is stored on?
- The employee that created it still be working at the company?
- The department that the employee worked in still exist?
- Anyone remember anything about the project that document was created for?
- Litigation be filed that requires the preservation of that information?
IG, with its legal and compliance foundations, provides a defensible approach to disposing of unnecessary information. The combination of good policies around retention of information during normal business operations and preservation of information during litigation or regulatory investigation protects your organization. The law doesn’t require us to keep everything forever, but only IG provides a defensible framework to help us get rid of the information we don’t want and aren’t required to keep.
NOTE: Stay tuned for the next nine reasons.