Legal07 July, 2015

A gold mine of information: the data archive

For many corporate legal departments, data archiving is like chasing a moving target with closed eyes. In today’s information society, how well an organization manages their data can mean the difference between success or failure. According to a data archiving study by IDC and sponsored by Iron Mountain, based on a survey of 1,011 members of senior and executive management, the most successful organizations that have implanted data archiving gain key insights to improve business outcomes. The top 15% of companies surveyed generated more than $10 million in additional revenue as a direct result of mining their data archives. Although the news of success stories has generated considerable interest, few companies have the structure in place to fully manage and monetize their data archives.

The current situation: Archiving is chaos

Although 57% of medium to large businesses maintain six or more electronic archives containing structured and unstructured data, the overwhelming majority lack a consistent approach to archiving. More than 40% of organizations reported they archived everything, lacking the skills to distinguish between important and unimportant data. However, this approach creates “data swamps” – repositories that make information hard to find because it is unclassified and treated inconsistently. As if this doesn’t sound chaotic enough, companies use a range of different archiving approaches to storing unstructured data, ranging from cloud services, backup applications and standalone archiving software tools.

The value of the archive

The most successful organisations that use data archiving to increase the value of their business benefit by:

  1. Reducing operational costs of the IT department by managing risk and increasing efficiency.
  2. Gaining business insight to improve customer service, and enhance revenue opportunities.

Companies that are in control of their archives can generate millions of dollars in benefits. Just over half the companies saved $1 million or more from risk mitigation and avoidance of litigation. While the numbers sound impressive, there is a blind spot because organizations believe they are doing a better job than they actually are. 76% of companies believe they are maximizing the value of their archives, while only 38% of companies are using archives for business analysis.

Legal vs. IT

Fully implementing data archives requires companies to overcome organizational challenges and work together. Among the respondents, the legal and IT department represent the biggest challenge. Only 48% of legal and compliance respondents are satisfied with their ability to access archived information, due to the time-constraints surrounding their work. 38% of legal and compliance respondents see archives as reducing litigation costs compared to 63% of line of business respondents and 68% of IT respondents. The underlying reason for the disconnect stems from a difference in roles and objectives of archiving. The legal and compliance department focuses on alleviating risks while the line of business wants to disseminate information.

Words of wisdom

The study offers four pieces of advice to businesses that want to turn their data archives from data swamps into data lakes.

  • Hire a chief data officer (CDO) to be directly accountable for all data issues. This person should initiate the development of an archiving strategy that takes the role of the archive into the account. The CDO should lead a cross-functional team to define the tools, processes, and procedures to ensure the archive operates effectively. The CDO should be prepared to work alongside the organization’s chief operating officer and chief information officer to define long-term strategies.
  • Develop information maps of all data sources and repositories across the organisation. Information maps should be organized according to business unit, group and business process. These maps should help to identify the types of information in the archives and the value of the information to the organization.
  • Implement a holistic, consistent archiving approach across all areas of the business. Organizations should pay special attention to data retention policies, use cases, the value of data, accessibility and archive costs. Data that is unstructured and not necessary for business analysis should be moved to offsite disks to free up internal storage and manage costs.
  • Consider working with a third-party partner. Partners have specific expertise that can help organizations optimize their solution. For instance, Legisway has years of experience with successfully assisting corporate legal departments in filing, managing, and storing legal documents electronically. Companies can access data faster and more efficiently.
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