Legal11 September, 2015

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – The three R’s of data management

These days, recycling programs aren’t just for paper. Corporate legal departments across the globe are looking for ways to harness their data for multiple purposes. Many organizations are in the middle of a data dilemma: they don’t know what to do with it until crisis strikes. While data management is a hot topic within the legal world, the problem is that most of the information focuses on “why” and not “how,” leaving organizations stuck somewhere in the middle.

Current challenges

It may come as no surprise that companies are doubling their data footprint nearly every year. By the end of this year, the annual spend on big data will reach $2.8 billion. It’s only natural that companies want to collect more data because they are growing, more reliant upon data and technology, and operate in an increasingly complex regulatory environment, all of which make data collection more expensive. In addition, data is being entered into the database from several different points in the company. Organizations can draw several insights from interpreting information that enters the database, such as how employees behave toward one another, how they communicate and how they engage with clients. Reusing data that has already been collected for compliance programs can save much needed time and money while helping to ensure that your organization is following international laws. If the overall goal is to reduce the volume of data, strong information governance policies are the answer.

Reusing for Compliance

Internal data can be reused to develop and manage compliance and surveillance programs. Organizations can reuse their data to better understand where any holes in their organization might be concerning compliance. Sifting through employee communication with clients can ensure that proper documentation was provided to contacts and guarantee that clients understood the terms of the contract. After identifying “problematic data,” immediate steps can be taken to establish training programs to prevent similar issues in the future. For instance, an organization could tailor their training program designed to prevent the early marketing and sales of products ahead of their launch.

Recycling for Regulatory Reporting

Governing bodies change their regulations more often than organizations would like . In many cases, new laws require revisions to be made to policies and procedures. To illustrate, the health industry is heavily regulated and reporting requirements aren’t just important for the companies themselves, but also the patients. Knowledge of the information entering the organization and the ability to monitor it are paramount in complying with reporting requirements. Recycling data can be an important component in ensuring compliance with the reporting requirements.

Reducing for Information Governance

Rapidly changing compliance regulations compel companies to look beyond typical information governance strategies. Instead, data should be looked at from the perspective of risk management, which is why “cleaning up” your data is so important. Many organizations are reluctant to get rid of data because they fear they aren’t compliant anymore once it’s been deleted. This eventually creates an environment of hoarders because people believe they are creating fewer problems by saving everything, but actually the opposite is true (sound familiar?). The better your data is managed, the better you can manage your risks. When it comes to getting rid of old data, a document retention policy can help identify documents that should no longer be preserved and can be deleted.


As the saying goes, lead by example. Start small by getting your corporate legal department involved in a data recycling program before implementing it across the organization. Over time, you’ll impress management that these programs are worth the investment. Following the 3 R’s of data management – reducing, reusing and recycling – will become a critical responsibility as you navigate your company’s ever-growing pile of data. 

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