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Streamlining your business with information governance

(Image credit: Image Credit: StartupStockPhotos / Pixabay)

According to a survey by AIIM, 75 per cent of organisations struggle with information governance. This comes as no surprise, given the explosive growth in content, new regulatory demands as well as the limited capabilities of first-generation records management tools. With compliance risks and costs rising, getting a handle on information governance is essential, and many companies are realising additional operational benefits of laying out a blueprint for better data management.

Building an automatic digital library

Organisations should think of their data like books. With this in mind, IT decision makers can aim to create a data library organised in a similar way to grand rooms with categorical bookshelves as far as the eye can see. If data, like a book, is not filed away properly, then the people who search for it will have to put in extra work for any searching.

We are all guilty of not filing something when and where we should in our personal lives, but when improper storage happens with mass amounts of work data, it can become a time-consuming and inconsistent process to remedy. In this situation, records managers face an uphill battle applying complex retention schedules to a myriad of different records. This is where automation becomes key for records management. It empowers software to sweep out the cobwebs and reorganise the shelves with little or no user intervention.

Automation helps fix one of the weakest links in records management: manual records declaration. Automated records management allows business rules and metadata to direct when a record is created and where it is put in the file plan. Busy end users don’t have to action records management or even understand it. Instead, records are automatically captured during the regular flow of business. For example, when a contract is approved or an employee separates from the company, all of the paperwork will automatically be filed in the appropriate place.

When it comes to records retention, configurable file plans or retention schedules effectively put this critical process on autopilot. Records are automatically kept for a predefined length of time, and then archived or destroyed on schedule. This greatly simplifies the task of managing large amounts of data that require different retention schedules and long-term storage to meet regulation. Creating this automated library gives records managers more control and peace of mind.

Leveraging machine learning

The challenge for many businesses lies in the proliferation of digital content like images, videos and social media, coupled with heightened concerns about data privacy and security; IDC predicts that the global datasphere will grow to 175 zettabytes by 2025.

Taking automation one step farther, organisations are now looking for systems to learn over time and improve the record process – this is where AI and machine learning can play a key role. With this proliferation of data and the needs organisations constantly evolving, having a system that can automatically evolve alongside these needs can make a big difference.

Utilising rich contextual metadata and aligning this to an automatic data management programme that can read and understand it is the best strategy; this lets businesses extract and tag records for better storage. With machine learning, governance software can then be trained to identify and flag content with compliance-related data, to ensure that it falls within regulations. This is something that can be implemented in a small, strategic was to begin with and ramped up as the system becomes more intelligent.

With intelligent, automated data classification, businesses can have greater control over the classification, retention and security of their growing store of records.

Setting up the right search tools

Many people become frustrated with the time it takes to locate a file. With the myriad of different applications and locations, many worry that this process is only going to get worse as more technologies get thrown at the problem. The solution is to sharpen and streamline through smarter search engines and federated search capabilities.

Federated search capabilities allow you to search all records and active content managed by a governance solution. This means you can query multiple repositories at once, finding relevant files wherever they reside. You can review and filter the results, and then export them in the EDRM XML format for use in an eDiscovery tool.

With litigation and regulation on the rise, the ability to conduct federated searches is increasingly valuable. You will be able to do enterprise-wide discovery faster and more accurately – and with much less impact and cost to the business.

Introducing data lifecycles

Soaring storage costs eat into many IT budgets. As record volumes grow, businesses want to keep those expenses in check. At the same time, businesses do not want to keep records any longer than needed, otherwise they become more of a liability than an asset. The solution here is to reduce spending with information lifecycle management and cloud storage.

Storing too many records for too long can be both costly and risky to your business. But there are ways to control where and how you store records to optimise for cost, compliance and security. Firstly, governance solutions with Information Lifecycle Management (ILM) capabilities let you programmatically manage where records are stored. You can save money by setting up rules that move records and business files to cheaper classes of storage based on business needs.

Secondly, you can further cut storage costs by archiving records to AWS, Microsoft Azure and other cloud services. Storing records on Amazon S3 Glacier costs up to 70 per cent less than storage in your own data centre. Finally, automated records management helps you dispose of records when they are no longer needed for legal, regulatory or business reasons. This constant culling of files not only lowers your storage bill, it also reduces your vulnerability to compliance failures and security breaches.

According to some estimates, 70 per cent or more of stored data is ROT – Redundant, Obsolete, and Trivial. ROT causes increased risk to the organisation in a number of ways. It impairs the ability to demonstrate compliance with regulatory guidelines or respond to discovery requests. Since ROT is typically unmanaged and unknown to the organisation, it is especially vulnerable to cyber-theft and data breaches. Confidential material containing sensitive information can be shredded by an organisation when it is void; a similar process needs to be implemented on a digital scale so that confidential information is not floating about in cyberspace.

Keeping a tight rein on data is the only way companies can ensure it doesn’t control their lives. Working a lot to set this up will have huge long-term benefits – this is something that many business decision makers are now wising up to; control is key when it comes to data.

Tara Combs, Information Governance Specialist, Alfresco

Tara is the Information Governance Specialist for Alfresco. Previously, Tara was a records management consultant at the Department of Justice; she worked on pioneering ECM systems in U.S. government.