These days, people are accustomed to easily finding the information they need. They simply type keywords into a search engine and access material from any corner of the digital universe. The internet has revolutionized information sharing and collaboration.
Unfortunately, today’s enterprise systems have not kept pace.
Imagine a world without the internet, without web pages tagged and identifiable by keywords or search terms, without Google and other search engines. Too often, that is what corporate information networks look like, with important corporate data siloed within different business applications and network folders, all but inaccessible to other workers who could benefit from it
The proliferation of this kind of information, known as dark data, is a growing problem for organizations in every industry.
The Scope of the Problem
Dark data is any corporate information that is unused, inactive or, as Gartner describes it, “information assets that organizations collect, process, and store in the course of their regular business activity, but generally fail to use for other purposes.” It is estimated that as much as 90 percent of data that an organization produces never get used again. That is all dark data.
Of course, not all dark data should be illuminated. Some of it should remain dark – saved, but inactive –for historical purposes, such as past employee or customer information or corporate strategic data. Dark data is also appropriate for evidence of compliance and should include material such as training records or audit logs.
But most data should not be dark. It should be active. When employees can’t quickly find the information they need, they often re-create data, which represents a considerable waste of resources. Duplication and re-creation also multiply the incremental volumes of any data that subsequently goes dark. When data that is accessed frequently or occasionally “goes dark” unintentionally, it is more than an inconvenience to an employee. It also can be a serious problem for the business.
For example, if a customer calls for help, support engineers need the full history of the customer’s interactions at their fingertips to provide responsive, quality service. Requiring them to search through multiple systems or repositories to compile data wastes their time and potentially tries the customer’s patience.
The Impact of Dark Data on Businesses
The issue with volume is the need to search through it for relevant, active data. Employees have to do so regularly, whether through their own file structures or a network structure. But the logic of a network structure is not always clear to employees, who may organize hierarchies of information differently. To be sure that they have what they need, employees tend to keep everything, or make copies of everything, and put it where they can find it. This can lead to “content chaos” and even more time spent organizing, in addition to searching.
Wading through a large volume of potentially unnecessary or redundant information is also problematic when it comes to an organization’s need to perform data analysis, or when responding to eDiscovery requests or audits. Today’s business climate mandates meticulous record keeping and the ability to generate evidence for quality control, compliance, legal actions, and risk mitigation, among other purposes. Difficulty finding required records could lead to excessive time spent on the hunt or to duplication of content either via re-creation or files saved in multiple locations for later ease of access.
This proliferation of storage locations, along with the overall lack of organization and accessibility of corporate data, can make inactive data risky. For example, if information such as historical human resources data or customer records is not properly identified and secured, the organization could be liable. The ability to make informed strategic and operational decisions is vital to your bottom line and this ability may be limited if you cannot find all the corporate information you have and need. Most of these scenarios expose what is fundamentally a problem with an organization’s information management processes.
Harnessing Every Information Resource
Instead of concluding that content chaos is inevitable and ignoring it, successful organizations identify and efficiently manage information though all phases of the lifecycle. An enterprise information management (EIM) solution can make your corporate information network function like the internet, allowing employees to take full advantage of stored information resources while also ensuring that confidential information is secured and protected.
EIM systems that leverage metadata can simplify the identification, classification, and searchability of all information assets. Content can be tagged to create relationships between documents and categories of information, which keeps authorized data visible in searches. Metadata can be thought of as the spotlight that illuminates dark data, making content findable by helping define the context, importance, and purpose of every file and associated object. By identifying, linking, and cross-referencing information, metadata unlocks your information’s relevance and utility.
With an EIM solution that can illuminate dark data, employees don’t have to waste time and effort finding, duplicating, or re-creating information. Greater visibility and accessibility of corporate information also can lead to improved communication, collaboration, and decision making.
Best-in-class EIM solutions enable automated enforcement of policies designed to manage corporate data and content at all stages of the information lifecycle. These systems also can integrate with other core business systems in use – ERP, CRM, and others – to help eliminate This is the future of information management: the ability to put content in context.
Mika Javanainen is Senior Director of Product Management at M-Files Corporation. Javanainen is in charge of managing and developing M-Files’ product portfolio, roadmaps, and pricing globally. Prior to his executive roles, Javanainen worked as a Systems Specialist, where he integrated document management systems with ERP and CRM applications. Javanainen has an executive MBA in International Business and Marketing. Follow Mika on Twitter at @mikajava.
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