New Research: Taking Control of Long-Term Digital Information

Barclay T. Blair, Executive Director & Founder, Information Governance Initiative
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Barclay T. Blair, Executive Director & Founder, Information Governance Initiative

Barclay T. Blair, Executive Director & Founder, Information Governance Initiative

Long-Term Digital Information is increasingly driving business value and proliferating like never before.

Last year our think tank completed a benchmark study, together with Preservica, on the critical issue of governing and preserving long-term digital information (we define “long-term digital information” as that information we need or want to keep for 10 years or longer). That research found a troubling dynamic: while virtually every organization (98 percent) needs to keep digital information for longer than ten years, very few (16 percent) have a viable approach for proper governance and preservation.

We recently completed our 2017 benchmark study on this issue, digging even deeper into an apparent dysfunctional dynamic to try to learn what information professionals are doing about it. Our 2017 research could not be clearer: long-term digital information is more important than ever. It’s driving business value and protecting organizations from risk. It is also proliferating, and can be found in more business functions and systems than before. Finally, the consequences of failing to properly govern and preserve long-term digital information only grow graver, with the impact felt all the way up to the CEO and board of directors.

  ​“Information value and risk are two sides of the same coin–a dynamic that has played out since the very beginning of commerce itself"   

 

We have captured the top three insights in the infographics below.

Insight #1: Generating Value from Information is a Priority

Information value and risk are two sides of the same coin–a dynamic that has played out since the very beginning of commerce itself. But while legal and regulatory requirements have always driven preservation and governance of long-term digital information, the quest for business value is rising as a major driver too. In fact, the vast majority of organizations (83 percent) realize (or plan to realize) direct business value from their long-term digital information, targeting areas like market analysis, product development, and customer service.

Insight #2: Long-Term Digital Information is Everywhere– Whether We Know It or Not

While it is no surprise that collaboration environments (e.g., file sync and share, enterprise content management) are identified by information professionals as the most likely location for long-term digital information, we were surprised by other systems in the top five, including accounting and transactional systems. Long-term digital information is proliferating, both across various business applications and by business function.

Within business functions, Legal Operations was the top driver, as expected, but Financial Management and HR Management followed close behind. Another interesting business function that relies on long-term digital information is Intellectual Property (IP) Management of an organization’s knowledge assets.

 

Insight #3: Adoption of Technological Solutions

Nearly nine out of ten information professionals believed that “ensuring readability and usability of information” was a key requirement for governing and preserving long-term digital information. Meanwhile 79 percent of respondents said that “proving authenticity and trustworthiness” was also important. Also with a response rate of 79 percent, was “supporting records retention and disposition requirements.” The high response rate across multiple categories demonstrates that long-term preservation and governance of information is a critical capability for many reasons.

These capabilities are difficult to deliver over the long-term without using technology that has been designed specifically to address the range of challenges inherent to long-term digital information.

Who is Most affected?

The C-suite bears the brunt of the failure when long-term digital information is not properly preserved and governed. The top five stakeholders most affected are:

1) CEO

2) General Counsel

3) Head of Records Management

4) CIO

5) Board of Directors.

While legal and regulatory requirements have always driven preservation and governance of long-term digital information, the quest for business value is rising as a major driver and this affects the C-suite. Since our 2016 Benchmark was completed, some organizations have taken steps to integrate long-term digital preservation into the lifecycle of governing their digital information. However, many organizations lag behind—putting their long-term information, their business, and the C-suite at risk.

Conclusions

Dropping the ball on governing and preserving long-term digital information not only creates multiple sources of legal, security, and compliance risk, but it also starves the organization of the information for analysis. As analysis tools and techniques continue to radically improve our ability to harness our digital information, this failure will only grow as a threat to competitiveness and innovation.

The preservation of long-term digital information is a technology problem, a business problem, and a legal problem. Organizations know what they must do, but are not yet doing it. Although nearly all survey respondents told us they are aware that technology obsolescence could mean that long-term digital records and information are at risk of not being readable or useable in the future, they have not yet taken action.

Why not? As of 2016, 44 percent said they are currently considering their approach, and 31 percent said they have no comprehensive strategy. Only 16 percent are actually transferring this critical long-term information to a standards-based digital preservation system.

The IGI and its supporters like Preservica are dedicated to advancing our understanding of this problem and its solutions. This is a solvable problem. Today, there is no difference between the digital world and the “real world.” The time for short-term thinking is over. Let’s take action.

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