An edited and condensed transcript of this speech is available here.
I just finished writing a report at the IGI that is a broad survey of market, legal, and technology developments that affect records retention and management practices. Some interesting things going on around the globe. For example, in April 2013, the UK abolished its primary financial regulator, the Financial Services Authority, and replaced it with two new regulatory bodies: the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA). According to Steven Formica, CEO of Fontis International, a provider of global legal data for records retention schedules, this reform resulted in extensive changes to records retention requirements. For example, Steve’s firm replaced 104 existing records retention legal requirements related to the FSA with 686 new entries based on the requirements of the FCA/PRA. This kind of increased specificity and scrutiny on records retention is happening in the US and around the globe.
In any case, I will be discussing the paper and its key findings on a webinar hosted by Recall at 2 pm ET on March 25th, 2014. Click here to find out more and register to attend. The paper will be available for download immediately after the webinar.
Thursday February 20th, 2014 is the second annual Global Information Governance Day. We established #GIGD to raise awareness of information governance across the globe. See the Wikipedia entry for more information.
Success in information governance can only be achieved by challenging and changing the way we see information. This is why Global Information Day is useful: it will help to raise awareness of the critical importance of information governance.
As you celebrate Global Information Governance Day with your friends and family, here are some key points to remember:
- Over half of the information many organizations create and keep is redundant, outdated junk.
- Keeping this digital junk around only wastes capital that could be deployed elsewhere – to create jobs, for example – and unnecessarily harms the environment through massive electricity waste.
- The failure to manage burgeoning digital information is a demonstrable threat to the civil and criminal justice system due to the out-of-control costs of electronic discovery. Many cases and investigations are settled rather than properly adjudicated simply because the cost of finding and producing digital evidence is unreasonably high.
- The global failure to properly classify unstructured information is represents a growing threat to individual privacy. Every day your private information and mine is at risk of theft and unauthorized disclosure by the companies and governance agencies because they lack consistent and cost-effective techniques to separate personally identifiable information from non-private information.
How can you celebrate Global Information Governance Day? Here are some ideas:
- Chip away at your email inbox to try and achieve Inbox Zero.
- Clean up and shut down an old departmental shared drive, just for fun.
- Drink some herbal tea, read Zen Buddhism for Dummies, and try not to panic when you think about how big the problem is at your organization.
- Take six or seven hours and try to explain to your friends and family, what exactly do you do for a living again anyway?
- Participate in the first annual Global Information Governance Day Twitter chat.
In honor of Global Information Governance Day, I will be participating in a Twitter chat hosted by @RSDig at 11 am EST on February 20th, 2014 along with several other information governance experts. Hashtag is #GIGD. See you there.
Next week don’t miss the 2014 American Bar Association Information Governance, Electronic Discovery and Digital Evidence National Institute at Stetson’s Tampa Law Center in Tampa, Florida, on January 28-31, 2014. I spoke at this event last year, and was supposed to speak again this year, but had a conflict so I will unfortunately not be there. Unfortunate for me, at least. The attendees will probably be fine without me.
This is an event star-studded with e-discovery and information governance luminaries and judges. It is a casual setting, with lots of opportunities to chat with real decision-makers (i.e., judges) and experts who are mapping the future of information governance. Plus, Tampa is a pretty nice place to escape to this time of year. Unless you are from Tampa, in which case, well, you get to sleep in your own bed. And don’t forget to go to Berns (take the tour, it is worth it).
Trends Driving Information Governance Strategies in 2014
In 2013, many organizations successfully launched information governance initiatives, and saw positive progress from those efforts in attaining executive sponsorship, engaging key stakeholders, and executing pilot projects. As we enter 2014, new challenges emerge as organizations look for demonstrable business value amidst unrelenting challenges of information growth, regulatory compliance complexity, and legal discovery.
Join me and Robert A. Cruz as we assess these challenges and discuss what we can expect for Information Governance in 2014. The live webinar, presented by Proofpoint, is on January 23 at 11AM PST/ 2PM EST
“Information retrieval is a significant problem for businesses. Further, the extent of the problem worsens with increasing size of the document collection [and] the less formal the information stored.”
Information Retrieval in Business: An Unmet Challenge[i]
Unstructured information, at its simplest, is information that does not reside in the rows and columns of a database. Any database user understands that the meaning of a field in a database is a combination of what the row and the column each mean, such as the price of a widget on a certain date. However, unlike the structured information that resides in databases, unstructured information does not always have a predetermined form, business purpose, use, value, or security classification.
As a result, managing unstructured information is tricky. Many long-established techniques for database administration simply do not apply. This complexity also makes calculating the total cost of unstructured information difficult.
Unstructured information comes in many forms, including word processing documents, spreadsheets, social media posts, and log files automatically generated by computer servers. Some unstructured information has more structure than others (email messages, for example, all have a header, subject line, and message body). Some call this information semi-structured information, but for our purposes, we will use the term unstructured information to include semi-structured information as well.
The volume of unstructured information is growing dramatically. Analysts estimate that, over the next decade, the amount of data worldwide will grow by 44 times (from .8 Zetabytes to 35 Zetabytes: 1 Zetabyte = 1 trillion Gigabytes).[ii] However, the volume of unstructured information will actually grow 50% faster than structured data. Analysts also estimate that fully 90% of unstructured information will require formal governance and management by 2020. In other words, the problem of unstructured information governance is growing faster than the problem of data volume itself.
What makes unstructured information so challenging? There are several factors, including
- Horizontal vs. Vertical. Unstructured information is typically not clearly attached to a department or a business function. Unlike the vertical focus of an ERP database, for example, an email system serves multiple business functions – from employee communication to filing with regulators – for all parts of the business. Unstructured information is much more horizontal, making it difficult to develop and apply business rules.
- Formality. The tools and applications used to create unstructured information often engender informality and the sharing of opinions that can be problematic in litigation, investigations, and audits – as has been repeatedly demonstrated in front page stories over the past decade. This problem is not likely to get any easier as social media technologies and mobile devices become more common in the enterprise.
- Management Location. Unstructured information does not have a single, obvious home. Although email systems rely on central messaging servers, email is just as likely to be found on a file share, mobile device, or laptop hard drive. This makes the application of management rules more difficult than the application of the same rules in structured systems, where there is a close marriage between the application and the database.
- “Ownership” Issues. No employee thinks that they “own” data in an accounts receivable system like they “own” their email, or documents stored on their hard drive. Although such information generally has a single owner, i.e., the organization itself, this mindset can make the imposition of management rules for unstructured information more challenging than structured data.
- Classification. The business purpose of a database is generally determined prior to its design. Unlike structured information, the business purpose of unstructured information is difficult to infer from the application that created or stores the information. A word processing file stored in a collaboration environment could be a multi-million dollar contract or a lunch menu. As such, classification of unstructured content is more complex and expensive than structured information.
Taken together, these factors reveal a simple truth: managing unstructured information is a separate and distinct discipline from managing databases. Moreover, determining the costs and benefits of owning and managing unstructured information is a unique – but essential – challenge.
[i] Michael D. Gordon, “Information Retrieval in Business: An Unmet Challenge,” The University of Michigan, 1991. Online at, http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/handle/2027.42/35654
[ii] International Data Corporation, “The 2011 Digital Universe Study,” June 2011. Online at, http://www.emc.com/collateral/demos/microsites/emc-digital-universe-2011/index.htm
If you are at ARMA 2013 this year in Las Vegas, I’m looking forward to seeing you. I have a lot going on, including the panel below, moderated by incoming ARMA President Julie Colgan. See you there!