Just Give Me a Laminated Card!

Last week I was working with a client on an information governance and disposition project, and I was struck by the vast difference in perspective the legal and IT communities have. Specifically, during one interview, an IT leader said, “We are keeping everything forever. I’ve tried to gain support from legal and compliance to begin disposing of unneeded information. What I want is a laminated card. On one side of it is a list of what we should be keeping, and on the other side a list of what we can routinely dispose. Real simple.

Upon further discussion, though, putting together that desired laminated card isn’t such a simple thing. When trying to clarify what to keep versus dispose, she asked her legal, records, and compliance counterparts for their input and received lots of answers that began with “it depends on”: It depends on the records schedule, the legal holds in place, who the author was, who the system custodian is, etc., etc. In fact, the criteria for evaluating the disposition of a single piece of content are quite fluid, and they depend on the answers to a complex array of questions that are beyond the ability of a single individual to assess.

The dialog highlights the stark contrast between the very binary thinking within the IT function and the “shades-of-gray” perspective risk-related functions performed by functions such as legal, records, compliance, etc. And while the contrast is reflective of the challenges information management programs face, the objective of creating that laminated card is admirable.

Why can’t this be done? Think of all the money that would be saved! Think of the long-term risk mitigation benefits! Without a doubt the objective is positive, yet the practical reality of the time commitment required to get consensus on what types of content should be on each side of the card is a huge obstacle.

My advice to readers: Start small. Even if you go through a process of defining content that’s disposable and you finish with just a few criteria, a small win is still a win – and the list will likely grow. Maybe start with certain file types. Doculabs’ practice in information governance and disposition has a published list of approximately 100 file types that few can argue have any merit sitting out on corporate networks. (Consider, for instance, 10-year-old email that’s not subject to legal hold.) Having just a few items on the “dispose” side of the card may in fact make execution simpler, resulting in positive outcome quickly. Then wash, rinse, repeat.

Remember: The data and content you seek to reduce has been piling up for 15 years now, and it may well take just as long to whittle down the information glut.

Rich Medina
James Watson
I’m President and co-founder of Doculabs, serving as executive sponsor on consulting engagements for financial services clients.