Survey: Enterprises lacking strong information management plan

Many organizations have no plans for effectively dealing with the explosion of information today, according to a recent survey.

Almost a quarter of respondents to a recent SearchContentManagement.com survey have no plans for dealing with the explosive growth of information within their organization, nor any intention of governing the vast amounts of data they collect.

In fact, while 44% of respondents to the SearchContentManagement.com 2011/2012 Reader Challenges and Priorities Survey indicated they have or are planning an enterprisewide information governance (IG) program, 45% had no such schemes while 11% handle it on a departmental level. The online survey, taken by 172 information and content management professionals last year and early this year, also revealed that ensuring regulatory compliance has remained a primary driver for IG programs. However, there is growing interest in treating data as an asset for reuse, consistency and efficiency.

While those figures may not be surprising, there are some real hazards in letting all that information pile up in enterprise repositories without any plan to administer it.

“The biggest danger is that information will cease to be an asset and will turn into a straight cost,” said Barclay Blair, founder and principal of ViaLumina Group, a New York-based information governance consultancy. “If you combine the volume of the data and the complexity of the data, companies will lose the ability to generate value.”

Blair said a second major issue was the “out-of-control legal and regulatory risk associated with unfettered information growth.” It contains a latent liability for those who hold onto it, he said.

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Organizations of all types are experiencing an explosion of data and in most large enterprises the amount of information and content collected almost doubles every year, Blair said, referring to oft-cited evidence.

Survey respondents who are keeping track of the increasing amount of data flowing into and being generated by their organizations are using a variety of methods to handle the growth. Most are either adding storage devices (49%) or adding and upgrading servers (37%). Other approaches include adding or upgrading enterprise content management (ECM) applications and changing retention policies, 28% and 27% respectively. A smaller number is simply deleting more data (10%).

According to Blair, more companies ought to take the latter approach more seriously.

“One of the most fundamental reasons to invest in information governance is deleting outdated content. It should be your reward for investing in this space,” Blair said.

But deleting unimportant content and information can be tricky, especially when no one wants to be the person in charge of pulling the trigger. While the IT department might have tools and processes to delete information, Blair said, they often can’t find a person with the confidence and authority to take on the task.

Most of the unstructured content that is being addressed by IG programs amounts to documents, records and other kinds of compliance-related data. That means that email, images, various types of rich media assets and social media data are being addressed by less than half of existing programs.

When it comes to looking ahead and evaluating whether repositories and management systems will be able to handle the increasing amounts of information, organizations are divided. About a quarter of respondents said they were not sure whether their current systems could scale to manage the growth of both structured and unstructured data. Another 19% said they thought systems probably or definitely will not scale.

A little more than half were either optimistic or confident that they had plans that would enable them to handle the coming growth in information.

To go along with the anticipated growth in structured and unstructured information, more than a third of organizations are either integrating or planning to integrate with other business processes or technologies. About an equal number of survey respondents said they had no automated integration plan, but 29% said they were considering integration of some sort.

Survey respondents also looked ahead to some emerging technologies. More than a third of organizations said they were considering digital asset management (DAM) but did not have adoption plans. Organizations already using DAM indicate that the primary reason for adopting the technology was that it offers the ability to reuse content and more easily standardize processes.

Finally, about one third of respondents use or plan to use enterprise search while and almost a quarter have or plan to implement knowledge management programs. And content analytics continues to be an emerging technology that generates interest in improving customer-facing processes and programs in operations or marketing despite adoption rates remaining low.

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