Peter-BaumannBy Peter Baumann, CEO

This week, we are off to NYC for the annual Legaltech jamboree. Part of the Legalweek conference, Legaltech is the world’s largest and longest running trade show for legal technology. While we are there, I am hoping to find that the legal industry is finally recognizing the need to get beyond discussions of e-Discovery and on to proactive information governance. I am less than optimistic that we will find that to be the case. Here’s why:

Deleting information is really, really hard for most individuals and organizations. It requires years of hands-on experience to execute on deleting just one corporate file, never mind millions. Here at Active Navigation, we have developed that experience over years of customer engagements.

As the CEO of an Information Governance technology provider, I am usually hyper-focused on getting the word out about our software products and services. After all, it’s my job to let people know how we are helping our customers tackle their toughest information governance issues! So that’s where I spend much of my time, and I tend to leave much of the broader market commentary to the people I have always regarded as the experts: the lawyers, analysts, consultants and other information governance commentators.

However, recent events have propelled me to write about the broader challenges I see facing the market. The reason: I realized that I have for too long over-estimated organizations’ understanding of the IG challenge they face and their desire to fix it. For example: I find it remarkable that a campaign we have been running in recent months, called “Kill your File Share,” has generated such intense interest. I mistakenly thought the market had long ago dealt with this somewhat rudimentary issue of file shares, and the new message should be all about cloud and sensitive data.

Yet, it appears from our responses that less than 1 in 10 organizations have even started to really address their files shares.

As with the Kill Your File Share campaign, most of the conference sessions and trade show exhibitors will be focused on or supporting eDiscovery—the technology and practice aimed at identifying, collecting and producing electronically stored information (ESI) in response to a request for production in a law suit or investigation. eDiscovery is undoubtedly an important tool for legal professionals once a law suit has been filed.

However, eDiscovery is neither strategic or useful in helping organizations avoid those lawsuits in the first place.

Unfortunately, once underway, businesses and the legal teams engaged in eDiscovery efforts often discover that a practice they once deemed safe, something we call “Keep Everything Forever,” actually poses enormous costs and risks to the business. Why?

Based on its own research, Gartner estimates that up to 30% of corporate data is redundant, outdated or trivial (ROT). Further, their research shows that an additional 50% of data has indeterminate value, leaving only the remaining 20% of data as mission-critical. According to Gartner, assuming a midsize storage environment, with between 2PB and 6PB of raw capacity, if the 50% of data with indeterminate value proves to be waste, this can result in unnecessary storage costs of $2,124,000 to $6,372,000.*

When a legal team has to sift through all of that data, the costs of ROT skyrocket even more.

Cost is not the only factor. As data multiplies, businesses lose track of what exactly is in all those files. Personal employee and customer information, sensitive corporate data, intellectual property, financial projections, and all manner of other data could be scattered across internal file shares, on employees’ hard drives, in personal cloud storage apps, and elsewhere. This kind of “junk drawer” mentality to keeping data around “just in case” makes the company more vulnerable to both accidental and intentional security breaches.

Rather than waiting for a lawsuit and employing a reactive eDiscovery technology to find out what’s in all those forgotten files, some industry leaders are beginning to take a more strategic, proactive approach to information governance. For example, after launching its own IG initiative, Pandora Media, provider of the popular streaming music service, determined that 60% of the content on the company’s network file shares was redundant, obsolete, or trivial. After launching a best practices information governance initiative, Pandora deleted it. The result: The company immediately reclaimed 18 terabytes of expensive data storage and management capacity. The other governance related benefits to the organization were however far greater.

Read the Pandora case study here.

“eDiscovery costs can really be reduced by economies of scale if you are classifying your data and applying retention periods accordingly,” says Doug Meier, Pandora’s Director of Governance, Risk & Compliance. “Let’s say you’re hit with a lawsuit and someone’s got 10 years of email. That’s just more time the lawyers will spend looking at everything.”

Even more importantly, Pandora reduced its risk of keeping data that was no longer relevant, but that could have presented serious risks to the company, triggering further litigation.

Good information governance benefits law firms as well. A client with clear visibility into its data and file sharing practices will be much easier to help, and good IG can help prevent issues that surface from a random old email or document that should have been deleted long ago. Proactive governance is far smarter than waiting for the hit!

At Legaltech this week, we look forward to hearing from the country’s top legal professionals about their views on industry best practices for information governance. We hope that many are thinking beyond eDiscovery to a more proactive IG approach that reduces costs and risk, while making businesses run leaner and faster.

Indeed, with the pending compliance deadlines of GDPR and NY Cyber Regulations, to name just two, does the industry really have time to procrastinate further in getting its data house in order!?