Twenty percent solutionOK, IT mavens, listen up…how much better would your life be if you only had to manage and protect 20% of your company’s data? By eliminating 80% of your data you could free up oodles of storage, reduce licensing costs, shorten backup cycles, and drastically cut e-discovery preservation costs, not to mention go home on time for a change.  For most this is an unrealistic pipe dream, but it doesn’t need to be.  The trick is knowing which 20% to manage.

The Legal department is your best friend. Really.

If you don’t own the content, how do you decide what to manage and what to dispose? The real beauty here is that you don’t have to decide—others do.  For those who have suffered endless e-discovery requests for preservation, it seems like the last group you’d want to cozy up to is Legal.  When approached with the right proposition, though, an enlightened lawyer can be your greatest ally and facilitator of change.  You already know that most information lying around in your file shares, SharePoint sites, and e-mail systems is at best redundant, and at worst obsolete.  Just look at the “last accessed” dates and you’ll get a pretty good idea of the volume of ROT.  Here’s where Legal comes in.

Wise lawyers understand that SOME information must be retained according to various statutes and regulations. They also understand that the rest falls under the categories of convenience copies, non-business data, and obsolete copies of what were once bona fide records.  The reality is that as much as 80% or more of most companies’ information falls into these later categories.

Storage vendors are not your friends.

Vendors of IT storage and cloud solutions, on the other hand, are not your friends. They promote unlimited space for e-mail and documents because it is good for them, not necessarily good for you. Remember, they don’t care about content either.  More storage—simply adding zeros to big numbers—is the short term, easy answer to rampant data growth, but not a good one.  In fact, more storage and unlimited e-mail not only perpetuate the problem, they exacerbate it.

Back to the lawyers.

So we all know that legal holds supersede ordinary retention rules, but just keeping everything is not a strategy. The good news is that you don’t have to hold what you don’t have.  Getting to this happy place of having just the right amount of information requires rules in the form of an actionable retention schedule.  The classification, retention, and disposition of information is the holy grail of getting to the 20% solution.  Lawyers can help you get there.   The wise lawyers mentioned above know the value of enforcing disposition of ROT: improved compliance, reduced risk, and cost savings.  They also know how to draft policies and get executive support for information governance initiatives.

Make more new friends.

Progress can be accelerated when risk, compliance, security, privacy, and LOB leaders are also engaged to identify common goals and to leverage budgets and bandwidth. It’s amazing how often these siloed groups have similar concerns, yet struggle to make an isolated business case for change.  Like puzzle pieces, aggregating these concerns creates a complete picture, most often with enough clarity and unified purpose to get an executive commitment and budget for change.

How to Get rid of the 80%

  1. Find a wise lawyer in your company and ask about the difference between legally-required retention and preservation for litigation. Their answer should help you begin to discover the 80% of ROT lurking in your systems.
  2. Find out whether your company has a legally-validated retention schedule for ordinary course retention of business documents. If not, suggest that you need one.
  3. Reach out to your peers in other functions to find out what issues and challenges they face because of information glut. Ask how you can work together to pare down the volume.
  4. Resist the temptation to allocate budget for more storage. Instead, work with the Legal, Compliance, and Risk departments to establish and enforce the classification, retention, and disposition of information.

If, in the end, this all sounds a little like information governance, that’s because it is. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s achievable.