This is the second video in our series, “5 Questions about Information Governance in 5 Minutes.” In this video IG experts answer the tricky question, “Who Should Own Information Governance?”
Early this year I was lucky enough (thanks to a great sponsor) to carve out some significant research and writing time to answer a complicated (and maybe even complex) set of questions: what does unstructured information really cost? How do we answer this question? Which kinds of costs should be included in the answer? Can we use this answer to drive desirable Information Governance behaviors?
I looked at existing models for structured data, studied the emerging Big Data market, talked to clients and experts, and developed some answers to these questions that I think are actually pretty novel. You can download the entire paper here now (at the website of Nuix, the sponsor), and you can also follow along here as I discuss out some of the key ideas and findings over the next few weeks.
A PowerPoint slide (with notes) is available for download here: IG PowerPoint Slide of the Day from Barclay T Blair-10 Factors Driving Unstructured Information Cost. If you do use it, I would appreciate you letting me know how and where.
Unstructured information is ubiquitous. It is typically not the product of a single-purpose business application. It often has no clearly defined owner. It is endlessly duplicated and transmitted across the organization. Determining where and how unstructured information generates cost is difficult.
However, it is possible. Our research shows that there are at least ten key factors that drive the total cost of owning unstructured information. These ten factors identify where organizations typically spend money throughout the lifecycle of managing unstructured information. These factors are listed in Figure 1, along with examples of elements that typically increase cost (“Cost Drivers,” on the left side) and elements that typically reduce costs (“Cost Reducers,” on the right hand side).
- E-Discovery. Finding, processing, and producing information to support lawsuits, investigations and audits. Unstructured information is typically the most common target in e-discovery, and a poorly managed information environment can add millions of dollars in cost to large lawsuits. Simply reviewing a gigabyte of information for litigation can cost $14,000.[i]
- Disposition. Getting rid of information that no longer has value because it is duplicate, out of date, or has no value to the business. In poorly managed information environments, just “separating the wheat from the chaff” can cost large organizations millions of dollars. For enterprises with frequent litigation, the risk of throwing away the wrong piece of information only increases risk and cost. Better management and smart information governance tools drive costs down.
- Classification and Organization. Keeping unstructured information organized so that employees can us it. Also necessary so management rules supporting privacy, privilege, confidentiality, retention, and other requirements can be applied.
- Digitization and Automation. Many business processes continue to be a combination of digital, automated steps and paper-based, manual steps. Automating and digitizing these processes requires investment, but also can drive significant returns. For example, studies have shown that automating Accounts Payable “can reduce invoice processing costs by 90 percent.”[ii]
- Storage and Network Infrastructure. The cost of the devices, networks, software, and labor required to store unstructured information. Although the cost of the baseline commodity (i.e., a gigabyte of storage space) continues to fall, for most organizations overall volume growth and complexity means that storage budgets go up each year. For example, between 2000 and 2010, organization more than doubled the amount they spent on storage-related software even though the cost of raw hard drive space dropped by almost 100 times.[iii]
- Information Search, Access, and Collaboration. The cost of hardware, software, and services designed to ensure that information is available to those who need it, when they need it. This typically includes enterprise content management systems, enterprise search, case management, and the infrastructure necessary to support employee access and use of these systems.
- Migration. The cost of moving unstructured information from outdated systems to current systems. In poorly-managed information environments, the cost of migration can be very high – so high that some organizations maintain legacy systems long after they are no longer supported by the vendor just to avoid (more likely, to simply defer) the migration cost and complexity.
- Policy Management and Compliance. The cost of developing, implementing, enforcing, and maintaining information governance policies on unstructured information. Good policies, consistently enforced will drive down the total cost of owning unstructured information.
- Discovering and Structuring Business Processes. The cost of identifying, improving, and routinizing business processes that are currently ad hoc and disorganized. Typical examples include contract management and accounts receivable as well as revenue-related activities such as sales and customer support. Moving from informal, email and document-based processes to fixed workflows drives down cost.
- Knowledge Capture and Transfer. The cost of capturing critical business knowledge held at the department and employee level and putting that information in a form that enables other employees and part of the organization to benefit from it. Examples include intranets and their more contemporary cousins such as wikis, blogs, and enterprise social media platforms.
[i] Nicholas M. Pace, Laura Zakaras, “Where the Money Goes: Understanding Litigant Expenditures for Producing Electronic Discovery,” RAND Institute for Civil Justice, 2012. Online at, http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monographs/2012/RAND_MG1208.pdf
[ii] “A Detailed Guide to Imaging and Workflow ROI,” The Accounts Payable Network, 2010
Sometimes my primary value as a consultant is as a calm voice in the raging storm of information-related problems that my clients face. Most information governance practitioners are assaulted from multiple sides today. Legal wants e-discovery support (and they want it yesterday). IT wants help hiding from legal every time there is a new lawsuit. The business is pushing back on the new policy that requires employees to . . . gasp . . . take some responsibility for the information they create. In the midst of this the IG practitioner is supposed to be crafting and implementing an IG strategy. Simply getting started can seem impossible.
In the second piece of our OpenText Executive Brief series, I address the challenge of getting started with IG. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have heard the cliche, “boiling the ocean” in introductory meetings with clients struggling to take control of their information. The combination of IT complexity, the massive mountain of legacy content, organizational change and legal uncertainty can make it very difficult to figure out where to start. We’ve provided a practical way to think about IG, and some practical tips on getting started. Check out the new brief here (one-time registration required).
Email: Reason Enough
“Workers distracted by phone calls, e-mails and text messages suffer a greater loss of IQ than a person smoking marijuana, a British study shows.”
Emails ‘hurt IQ more than pot,’ CNN.com[1. Emails ‘hurt IQ more than pot,’ CNN.com, April 22, 2005.]
IN BRIEF. IG makes sense because it helps organizations take control of email. Solving email should be a top priority for every organization.
According to the study quoted above, using email can be hazardous to your intelligence. Sometimes I think that the same IQ deficit sets in when companies try to manage email. Everything they have learned about information management seems to be forgotten, and they end up with policies that indiscriminately keep every email message, or throw away every message, regardless of what the message contains. Or, they impose volume limitations without the support of a policy that tells employees that some messages have legal implications and cannot be tossed simply because they violate an arbitrary storage limitation. Or, they just do nothing.
Email is how we do business today. Our email systems are full of “a significant number of important emails involving the organization in obligations, agreements, contracts, regulations and discussion.”[2. AIIM International, “AIIM Industry Watch: Email Management, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,” AIIM International, May 2009.] At the same time, email mismanagement causes so many problems that it’s amazing we use it at all.
IG helps us take control of the email management problem. IG policies provide rules on how email is managed. Retention schedules guide the retention and disposition of email. Information technology helps us implement and enforce the policies. IG training ensures that everyone understand their responsibilities.
Apply IG to your email system – it’s reason enough to invest in an IG program. When doing so, keep the following in mind:
1) Develop defensible policies that align with your approach to information management in other systems
2) Consider turning off the ability for users to export email to local files
3) Ensure that your Legal Hold process covers email
4) Look at email archiving to reduce volume, duplication, and improve centralized management capabilities
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.