Spring Cleaning for Information


I find myself wondering (as I plan to clean out the garage today) what time of year we’re supposed to throw out all that unnecessary information we keep around.  Since cleaning out the garage doesn’t qualify as fun in my book, I would sure be easier just to add space to my garage.  That way, I’d never have to throw anything away.  It would cost alot … and make it much harder to find important stuff among all of the clutter but it would be easier.  Maybe I should just call a contractor (5 minutes) rather then actually clean out the garage (at least an hour or more).  Hhhmmm …

It’s funny that when it comes to this aspect of information management we seem to always take the path of least resistance.  I’ve lost count of many times I’ve heard “storage is cheap” or other reasons why organizations don’t properly manage the lifespan of their information.  Most organizations don’t have a responsible program to properly dispose of electronically stored information.  How is this possible when those same organizations usually have good control over and properly dispose of paper based information?

Sure it’s harder to properly organize, retain and dispose of electronically stored information but the keep everything forever model has failed.  Buying more storage is not the answer.  Storage already consumes (on average) 17% of IT budgets and information will continue to explode … eventually gobbling up increasing percentages of IT budgets.  When does it end?  It won’t by itself.  Left unattended, this information explosion will eventually consume all remaining IT budget dollars and cripple or prevent any strategic investments by IT.

If that weren’t sobering enough, valued information is already buried beneath too much unnecessary information.  Much of it is over-retained, irrelevant and duplicated.  This is causing runaway storage and infrastructure costs and exacerbating power, space and budget challenges.  It’s also creating an inability to find and produce critical information, especially under punitive scenarios and deadlines.  How can anyone find and leverage the useful and trustworthy information lost among all the junk?

This sounds exactly like my garage … the power went out the other night and I was desperate to find that really cool flashlight I bought last year in case of a power outage.  Couldn’t find it, which ended up being my motivation to clean out the garage and throw out all of the unneccessary stuff that is piling up.  No garage extension for me!  No offsite storage facility either!  The fact is, I don’t want to spend more money on simply storing random unnecessary stuff.  I have higher value activities to spend my budget on … like golf 🙂

Isn’t it time every organization did their own information spring cleaning?  It would reduce storage/infrastructure costs, improve findability of information, reduce legal risks and increase usefulness and re-use of information.

Maybe you are already planning to clean out your garage of enterprise information.  Leave me your thoughts on the topic or visit us at the upcoming National Conference on Managing Electronic Records in Chicago.  We’ll be doing a special session on Content Assessment and how to use Content Analytics to identify and defensibly decommission and routinely dispose of unnecessary information.

9 thoughts on “Spring Cleaning for Information

  1. Craig, I couldn’t agree more! Golf is a much higher priority 😉

    Seriously, I talk to companies every day that have over-retained content such as email with a ‘store everything’ model. Now they are screaming under the pain of ediscovery, storage, and now facing migration of that clutter from the old garage (like EmailXtender and eVault) to a new garage. So many companies are now saying, “how do I clean out my old stuff I don’t need” as they move to a new garage and it can be challenging. Your product, Content Analytics, helps for those scenarios for sure. On a go-forward basis, these companies need to change and have the clutter auto-removed. I wish I had that for my garage as I do for my email. 😉

    Craig, a good post Sir,
    Scott

    Now go out and golf!

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  4. Great visual metaphore! It’ so easy to “hide & forget” the great big archive dumps, until you actualy need to find something quickly, stabbing in the dark!

  5. I have a 5 year rule for stuff; if I don’t think I will use it in the next five years it is donated, sold, recycled or thrown out. What should be the rules for data retention? I assume it would depend on the type of data (legal, tax, compliance, operations), I find it very difficult to find relevant, up to date information doing my job.

  6. Pingback: How Long Do I Keep Information? « Craig Rhinehart's ECM Insights

  7. This also falls into my industry – personal propety inventories. Most people couldn’t remember what they have, or even know IF they have something. This is the perfect time of year, when cleaning out, to also document your belongings. You’ll be glad you have this information when a fire, theft or natural disaster occurs. If you’d rather spend your time on the golf course, there are professional service providers who will document your inventory for you, professionally and confidentially.

  8. Nice post Craig. It is human nature to collect things and have trouble getting rid of it, even if it has no value. This also applies to information. Just look at the A&E show Hoarders (www.aetv.com/hoarders) to understand how this can be taken to extremes. I think a lot of us follow the path of least resistance and just hold on to our things and information way longer than we should. Plus there are entire industries dedicated to helping us house this information/things which makes it even harder to break the cycle.

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