Our unstructured data has grown relentlessly, with documents, spreadsheets, and slide decks stashed helter-skelter by employees in network and local drives. And thousands of boxes of paper sit in off-site storage, out of sight and mind. Finding the right information is a daily headache, slowing productivity. It’s hard to apply security controls to sensitive information because we’re not sure where it is. And I’m worried about spiraling litigation costs when we’re compelled to find, hold, and review data and documents for litigation.
I know the first rule of holes (stop digging), but this seems intractable. We can’t simply dispose of data because our retention schedule is woefully out of date. Applying targeted legal holds is a non-starter because we can’t locate specific documents and data for litigation preservation. The status quo is “perpetual hold,” and every day, more data and documents make a bad situation worse.
A two-pronged strategy will tackle uncontrolled data and documents, by dealing with legacy accumulations and also establishing better go-forward processes. Key elements are:
- An up-to-date and legally validated retention schedule and a reliable footprint of current legal holds;
- Clear and documented processes to triage legacy data and documents for (1) retention under the retention schedule, (2) preservation under legal hold, or (3) defensible disposal;
- Selection of the right people, tools, and repositories, with training and accountability; and
- Compliant control processes for saving data and documents going forward, to stop this problem from recurring.