5 Ways to Manage Your Data Chaos

Gone are the days where records are created, printed on paper, and sent to storage never to be heard from again unless they are needed for litigation. Today, electronic data is generated at a rate and volume exponentially faster than anything seen previously.

What data is created, where it is stored, who is responsible for it, and its business value are questions facing virtually every company in the world today. Terms like big data, data analytics, and unstructured and structured data are thrown around with dizzying effect. At times it can be chaotic.

At long last, most companies understand they need a plan to manage their data. The discipline called Information Governance (IG) is at the forefront of the search for solutions to many of these data challenges. While there is no official definition, IG is the term used to describe the policies, actions, behaviors, and technologies employed by companies to balance the risks and costs associated with data retention against the collection and use of data to drive better business decisions.

But what does that mean for your company’s data overload? Pinning down the concrete steps to start an IG initiative can be overwhelming. The list below offers five ways to help you start to think about how you can manage your company’s data chaos.

  1. Create a Chief IG Officer. Consider introducing a new role—the Chief Information Governance Officer. This person would ideally have a strong background in records management or IT and be responsible for all things IG. This person should also have a keen understanding of the value of the company’s data and how it can be used to enhance business decisions across the organization.
  2. Form a C-Suite team. Create a team of IG advocates consisting of the CIGO and other interested executives like the chief information officer, chief privacy officer, and general counsel. Traditionally, IG has been relegated to an operations level and is often ignored by the C-Suite. Business intelligence, however, is grounded in a companies’ data. The ability to harness data and drive decisions that affect revenue, operations, and costs will require leadership from the top down.
  3. Identify IG liaisons. In many companies, IG often rests within the purview of one department—be it records management, legal, or IT. For large, complex companies, however, data is generated by a myriad of applications across many departments. How and where data is stored will differ between departments depending on needs and accessibility. Thus, departmental specific knowledge is a necessary component in managing that data. To uncover this information, appoint representatives from each department to be IG liaisons. These individuals will be the subject matter experts relative to their department’s data issues. They will regularly liaise with the executive level to provide the boots-on-the-ground information to drive any IG initiative.
  4. Invest in IG infrastructure. Historically, IG at an organizational level has been a human-driven, manual task, with employees categorizing and managing their own data. As a result of the volume of data created today and the security risks associated with data, this approach is no longer tenable; investment in IG infrastructure is a necessity. There are many technologies that work across networks and departments to help automate the process of identification, categorization, retention, and destruction of data. Some even harness the same technology content analytics and workflow employed in court-approved predictive coding for e-discovery to create more complex categorization and automation. Finding the right technology or suite of technologies may take an initial investment of time and money, but the pay-off is substantial.
  5. Incentivize IG compliance. Even with a proactive IG policy, the right leaders, and automated technology in place, employees will still contribute to the IG efforts. Failure to comply with governance policies is a leading cause of information chaos. One way to avoid this is to incentivize employees to read, understand, and implement your company’s policies. Consider rewarding compliance with “mini-bonuses” or additional PTO. Continually reinforcing your employees with worthwhile incentives will insure that IG compliance will be an ongoing effort.

An information governance strategy is quickly moving from a “nice-to-have” to a “must” in order to properly manage an organization’s data. And like most things in life, sometimes getting started can be the hardest part. These steps, though, will help you kick-start your IG program to better prepare your organization for the future of data collection and organization.


About Geoffrey A. Vance

Geoffrey A. Vance is a partner in the law firm of Perkins Coie LLP and is based in the Chicago office. Geoffrey is the Firmwide Chair of Perkins' E-Discovery Services and Strategy Group and a member of the Commercial Litigation Group. Previously named by his peers as one of the 40 Illinois Lawyers Under Forty to Watch, Geoffrey concentrates his practice in complex commercial litigation, focusing on product and professional liability litigation, insurance controversies and other matters involving large-scale discovery projects. He has represented foreign and domestic clients in a number of state and federal courts and other dispute resolution settings. He assisted in and tried over 20 matters to conclusion.

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