4 reasons to clean your information

4 Reasons to Clean Your Information

Gartner said it well: “store everything isn’t an effective information governance strategy.” With the amount of information an organization creates and captures growing exponentially every year, it will be impossible to manage that data in a way the ensures it’s secure, compliant and available when it’s needed.

So can we just agree that you need to regularly clean your information? That you need to get rid of the ROT and properly organize and manage the rest. Not convinced yet? Here are four reasons to clean your data.

Avoiding inappropriate disclosure of information

When you have information – structured and unstructured – stored in many different repositories and applications across the organization, it’s really difficult to know what is stored where. And you almost certainly have the same information stored in multiple locations.

When you aren’t able to keep track of all your information, it’s at greater risk of being disclosed to people it shouldn’t be.

Think about the automobile insurance agent who is managing several cases at once. The agent is getting data from several places – applications from customers, accident reports, repair reports, and more. The agent may store documents in a case management system, but also have emails with attachments and have pulled documents into their Google Drive to work on at home. When the case is complete, does the agent clean out their Drive and email? In many cases, they don’t. The information is left there, and they move on to the next case.

Maybe you think it’s not a big deal; it’s still stored internally. But then the company’s Google Drive gets hacked, and terabytes of information are downloaded. A disgruntled employee downloads a number of files before he leaves the company. A dedicated employee who works extra time to make deadlines accidentally gets her laptop stolen.

Information can be disclosed, accidentally or on purpose, by internal parties or external parties. The less information you maintain that isn’t required for running the business or compliance, the less risk you have of that information getting into the wrong hands.

Finding personal information stored in unsecured locations

This is an extension to the previous discussion, but it’s important to call it out because we’re talking about personal information located in unsecured locations – like laptops, Google Drives, and other repositories.

Personal information is PII – name, address, social security number – anything that can identify an individual. It’s also PCI – credit card information, and it’s PHI – personal healthcare information like medical records. Too often, this information is inadequately stored as people perform their work.

When this information gets into the wrong hands – the damage to individuals can be catastrophic. The damage to your business equally bad – including brand reputation, lost revenues and fines.

There are plenty of examples to cite here. Target’s 2013 customer data breach cost them $18.5 million; Sears, Equifax, Yahoo, and the list goes on.

And not all data breaches are external. According to a research letter in JAMA Internal Medicine:

“The No. 1 cause of data breaches was theft by outsiders or unknown parties, making up about one-third (32.5%) of the 1,138 cases. Rounding out the top three causes were employee mailing mistakes (10.5%) and theft by former or current employees (9%). More than half (53%) of all PHI breaches originated inside the organization.”

Compliance with regulations like GDPR, NYDFS, CCPA

If you do business in the UK, then you know all about GDPR. If you do business in New York, you know the NYDFS, and if you do business in California, then you’re dealing with the CCPA. Three privacy regulations that describe how you must handle customer information and the fines you will pay if you don’t comply.

These regulations (and likely more to come) force you to think carefully and strategically about what customer information you capture and maintain long-term. The best advice is to simply ask for what you need to give the customer a great experience and then do everything possible to ensure that information is secure. Everything else, you need to get rid of.

By regularly evaluating, cleaning and organizing your data, you reduce the possibility of non-compliance with a regulation in your industry. You will also be able to put processes in place to appropriately, and securely manage the data you keep, ensuring that you can comply with information requests as they arise.

Improve findability of important information for effective decision-making

This last reason to clean your data is less about keeping your company out of trouble and more about taking advantage of your information for critical insights and proper business decisions.

The more information you keep, the harder it is to find the right information needed to make good decisions. Employees can be overwhelmed with data and content, needing to sift through so much irrelevant information that they often miss important things.

It also doesn’t help that much of this information is spread across repositories and business systems and you don’t always know which information is the official version (copies with different content can have a negative impact on effective evaluations and recommendations).

The first step in improving the findability of your information is to clean out the ROT – redundant, obsolete and trivial content, and archive the information no longer necessary but you need to retain for compliance purposes. What’s left behind is relevant information that you can organize and make findable for insights, to support customer service inquiries, identify innovative ideas or competitive differentiation.

What’s Your Reason to Clean Your Information?

Four great reasons to get a good picture of all your information and then strategically clean it out, organizing what you need and getting rid of the rest. When you take time to clean your information, you are in a better position to respond to security threats, deal with compliance regulations and derive valuable insights that can lead to increased revenues.

These are four. What’s your reason? Watch our recent webinar on organizing your information with Everteam.discover.