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Digital Debris: Why What You Don’t Know Could Hurt You

Ever worry that what you share with others online — even in private — could come back to haunt you later? You should. In our hyperconnected world, it’s safe to assume that everything you’ve ever tweeted, posted, shared, or saved may always exist. But there are other files that you’re creating and abandoning on the web — even if you don’t know it.

 The trail of files that everyone leaves behind online, also known as “digital debris,” is incredibly common in middle-market companies.

But it’s not just emails, posts, texts, instant messages, and voicemails midmarket companies should be concerned about. Other types of information that people commonly share and then forget about, including temporary files on network drives, draft files and folders, legacy and storage systems, system “dumps” or logs, and ex-employee files must also be managed.

These files don’t disappear, and they can cause serious problems for middle-market companies if they’re not handled safely and legally. Here are a few reasons digital debris should be on your business’ radar:

  • Productivity: Did you know that the average worker spends 9.3 hours per week looking for information? That’s a serious productivity loss that costs companies billions of dollars. Cleaning up the clutter could reduce time-wasting searching and boost productivity.
  • Big data: Big data is at the forefront of every major business conversation in the 21st century. But when you’re using big data to refine your insights, more data isn’t always helpful. Hosting digital debris on your system can keep you from finding the information and insights you need.
  • Compliance: When you don’t know what documents you’re holding on to, it’s tough to ensure that you’re complying with government regulations and laws. Addressing your digital debris is critical to ensuring that you’re litigation-ready, no matter what.

Dumping Your Debris

Every day, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data. No wonder digital debris is growing at such a rapid pace! There’s only one way to conquer this problem: information management.

When creating an information management program for your midmarket company, bring in legal, risk management, IT, records management, and lines of operating business. Allocate adequate time and money to designating responsibilities and empowering your team to make lasting, effective changes. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Consider current workflows, practices, and procedures. One reason you should make sure all key players are involved in the process is so you can implement information management with current workflows in mind. This will help ensure a smooth transition and prevent productivity loss.
  • Look outside your organization. Managing digital debris is a challenge nearly every business will face. Engaging third parties and experts can help educate your company on best practices and find ways to implement this process efficiently.
  • Identify high-risk and high-value content. The first digital debris you should tackle is high-risk and high-value content. This content can include business contractual requirements, patents, or critical vendor requirements.
  • Find places you can automate. Automation and repeatable processes will help your company define, scale, and sustain information management schedules.
  • Keep moving forward. This challenge is a big one, so take it one day at a time. After all, this problem wasn’t created in a day, and it won’t be solved quickly, either.

An effective information management program can benefit every department in your organization. When you cut down on useless data, you’re reducing the time it takes to find information, which improves productivity and reduces costs. In the modern workplace, connecting the right person with the right information to make a decision should be easier, not more difficult. And by eliminating digital debris, you’re one step closer to a safer, more streamlined organization.

Scott Byers (1) (1)Scott Byers is the president and CEO of EDM Americas, a global company dedicated to information lifecycle management and meeting the demands of today’s ever-changing, multichannel businesses in communications. EDM Americas is the industry’s only end-to-end solution. Scott is responsible for significant revenue, as well as client and geographic expansions. Connect with him on LinkedIn and Google+.

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