Information Governance   Insights: Frequently Asked Questions

Robin Woolen, MBA, IGP has worked in the field of information lifecycle management since 1994 with a specialty in strategic consulting focused on enterprise-scale information management.
If you’ve been doing this for a while there are certain questions that continue to pop up. Some you will have a standard answer for and some will change over time as technology or best practices evolve. In this article, I would like to begin a new series by giving you my top questions and how I answer them so you can be ready for them as well. Here we go:

“What are the most common mistakes that organizations make with their data programs?”

Without exception, the most common mistake any organization makes is to believe that some new software will solve all of their issues. This is not a new mistake, in fact, it has been plaguing Information Technology staff and Management alike from the beginning of time.

Even with the advances in today’s technology, it is important to do the hard work of analyzing the impacts current policies and procedures are having on the daily business process and making any adjustments necessary to meet the strategic goals of the organization and then training everyone involved in that process before considering adding technology to the mix. Even a new system that requires a complete business process overhaul should be based on a fully vetted policy to ensure everyone understands exactly what you are trying to achieve with the new system.


The adage “garbage in, garbage out” isn’t old for nothing and it still applies today.
The second most common mistake organizations make is believing their underlying data is accurate, well organized and easily accessible. The data infrastructure of most organizations is the result of organic growth over the course of years, sometimes decades, and as such is a jumbled mix of different technologies for structured data (mainframe systems, databases, ERP systems, etc.)  and it is even worse for unstructured data with network share drives, non-configured SharePoint libraries and probably a few content management systems thrown in just to make it interesting. We’ll leave email alone for now, because nobody wants to go there.

Recent polls have shown that many organizations have realized their erroneous assumptions and are beginning to take steps to correct the problem, but there are very few that can truly say they have conquered this issue. Regardless, the fact remains that you have to get a handle on the mountain of data your organization is carrying around before you try to automate your daily business process, or you will wind up with a very expensive failure. The adage “garbage in, garbage out” isn’t old for nothing and it still applies today.

What is very heartening is that organizations are starting to look at their data as true Information Assets that have real value and should be protected. Information Governance professionals have been preaching this concept for years and the statistics continue to remain constant in the amount of data an organization produces and the actual size of those assets that have value.  For years these surveys have shown that 70% of all the data an organization produces on a daily basis have no value whatsoever. The remainder is comprised of 1% in a litigation hold, somewhere between 10 – 15% have some regulatory mandated retention period with the remaining categorized as having “Some Value,” but does not rise to the level of a regulatory constrained record.

This is the central issue in virtually any organization I have encountered and it is nobody’s “fault”. Information Technology departments are in the business to solve problems and maintain systems. Many times there is very little time to do long-range planning. Thus, the data infrastructure tends to grow organically, adding system as needed to solve issues as you, and as such, they need to be pruned periodically. Systems upgraded or changed, data migrated (hopefully) and (always) more storage.

Yes, storage is cheap, but sometimes you have to clean out the closet! I know no one wants to do it and I have heard all the excuses, but at some point, you have to get it done. Trust me it is always better to start earlier rather than later. That should give you enough to think about for now! We’ll move on to other questions next time!

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