The underlying promise of digital transformation is that if you eliminate paper you will improve process workflow and organizational performance. But it often seems that we’ve traded one mountain of clutter for another. We’ve evolved from stacks of paper filling filing cabinets to growing digital disarray in file servers, online repositories, and web-based services. And with the rise in popularity of Cloud-based consumer storage like Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive and others, the problem is only going to get worse.

Digitizing makes sense. Doing so makes finding and accessing information easier, quicker and more complete. But the trouble is that it can become just another dumping ground for everything in your office. Oftentimes documents and information are digitized and stored away without really taking time to categorize the content and apply retention policies. This lack of basic information governance will come back to haunt you.

Is SharePoint the Answer?

Many organizations use SharePoint as a way to rein in the digital clutter and complexity. And it’s true that SharePoint provides better collaboration with the ability to make content follow specific rules. But it seems that even SharePoint has become another disorganized mess. Often users or departments are allowed to create their own sites – without any retention or metadata rules established ahead of time, and as a result, the digital dumping ground has expanded just as rapidly, if not more so, than with basic file shares.

Don’t Get Boxed In

The advent of consumer-based Cloud storage repositories is feeding the information chaos. Services like Google Drive, Box, OneDrive and Dropbox are popular with users, especially those working virtually or who are constantly on the run. It’s easy to upload content to the Cloud and work around the hassle of corporate protocols regarding information governance. It takes the burden off of IT in terms of expanding discs and server sizes since these online repositories have seemingly unlimited storage capacity. Convenience and expedience often override the forethought of good information management. The result is that users end up creating yet another place where content is stored without proper organization. The problem is compounded if the cloud drives are owned solely by a user, with no corporate-wide visibility or access. And, unlike old-school stacks of boxes, or servers in the data center, the problem can be invisible – just waiting to be discovered by an opposing litigant.

Retention and Governance

Some Cloud repositories, like Box, for example, have a governance module that does provide some basic retention and hold functions and does so from a corporate level. But for most serious information management applications, these facilities do not go far enough. In that case, I recommend that organizations look closely at partnering with third-party suppliers, like Zasio and others, who specialize in records retention and information governance. In any case, organizations should have an eyes-wide-open strategy; perhaps standardizing on one particular Cloud-based repository and then apply some thoughtful third-party tools on top of that to better manage and retain that information.

Battling the Chaos

With all the collaboration and storage options available, it can be difficult to determine the next best steps to battle information chaos. Here are some tactics to consider.

  • Before you let users run wild and use whatever storage platform they want, consider standardizing on a single platform, preferably one which provides some measure of governance and control.
  • Look for tools within those platforms that can help with information governance, at least at the retention level, if not also able to apply holds and other data governance measures.
  • Consider if it’s necessary and/or feasible to manage retention, holds, and disposition within a given tool, or if it might be better to move documents into a long-term repository once the active period for those documents is completed.
  • Evaluate existing policies and workflows to ensure you’re not driving users to more convenient alternatives by an overly-cumbersome document classification process. I have witnessed systems that require five or more screens of questions just to save a document.
  • Evaluate tools from third-party vendors that have the ability to apply retention and governance policies and that provide centralized management. The Zasio suite of solutions is one good place to start.

Moving Forward

Your company may have already set up a well-organized policy for electronic records management. But the reality is that the process may be cumbersome and restrictive enough where people simply decide to circumvent that policy and load content on the next convenient Cloud drive because they don’t want to take the time to go through the governance process. Make sure that Google Drive and other Cloud-based repositories don’t become a dumping ground for information that will be impossible to clean up later.

Speak with a Zasio Solutions Consultant

If you would like to speak to someone about your current electronic records management policies, or how our Versatile™ solutions could be a good fit for you, please fill out our Contact Form and one of our Solutions Consultants will get in touch with you.

Disclaimer: The purpose of this post is to provide general education on Information Governance topics. The statements are informational only and do not constitute legal advice. If you have specific questions regarding the application of the law to your business activities, you should seek the advice of your legal counsel.