If your organization is like most, it has a lot of unstructured content on file shares, laptops, desktops, and servers – what I like to call “information chaos.” This can include documents such as spreadsheets or presentations, and also includes music and artwork files.

For many of the clients I talk to – even those with sophisticated records programs – this information in the “wild” creates an unnecessary cost and risk to the organization.

The Perils of Information Chaos

Some of the problems associated with information chaos go beyond not being able to keep tabs on what’s “floating out there.”

Organizations can spend critical budget dollars adding extra storage options such as new servers, which provides more room but does not manage the files. If all you have is extra storage outlets, the business need to categorize and protect important information, not to mention destroy older information in accordance with regulatory policies, is not addressed. An entire company could be at risk simply by not properly managing its files, no matter how big or small it is

Chances are, your organization is governed by privacy standards and other regulations. Not addressing these compliance requirements can be a huge—and quite costly—liability. If there are legal implications, they could result in judgements that can be even more expensive and have a negative impact on an organization’s image. Finally, not having a document management system in place results in poor records management because out-of-date documents are not routinely archived. This leads to even more information chaos.

Is Your Business at Risk—In More Ways than One?

You’d be surprised how many organizations I speak to that are stuck in the information chaos trap. In fact, most don’t have the technology in place to adhere to their own corporate policies. Setting the rules is easy, but being able to audit documents, automate policies and truly implement the rules or follow up on how they are being enacted is a challenge. In short, many companies do not know how to operationalize applicable policies—again, a costly risk.

While more than half of all organizations are aware that risks exist as a result of poor document management, 45% say they do not have legal hold procedures for electronic and paper records; 26% say they still have data that has been held past the retention period that impacted a court case.

Information Analytics as a Diagnostic Tool

For many of the firms who are looking to get better control of their information chaos, Information Analytics is the recommended solution that classifies and automates document management. This is a useful approach for organizations at any stage of a governance program.

The approach encompasses records management (RM) and information governance and compliance (IGC) components to help organizations understand the value of information, evaluate the risks associated with document management and ensure compliance with regulations. It involves a systematic analysis and categorization of unstructured documents based on corporate policies, legal regulations and industry best practices. This organizes current information, eliminates duplicate data and properly archives or destroys applicable records. Implementing an information analytics solution requires a full business analysis, and after deployment, a follow-up is used to ensure the solution supports the business.

We have found this enables compliance with regulations, decreases litigation costs and optimizes IT storage. Businesses implementing this approach find they can maintain corporate and legal compliance guidelines at a lower cost to the organization – all while “rightsizing” their storage infrastructure. And while this approach won’t make your storage salesperson happy – your organization will be less susceptible to the perils of information chaos.

A Field Guide to Enterprise Records Management