Apologies to Elvis Costello. Last week I had the opportunity to host a roundtable at the Association of Intelligent Information Management’s annual conference in San Antonio. If you are not familiar with the annual AIIM conference, here is what you need to know: What was once essentially a convention for records managers is now a gathering of managers and executives interested in topics ranging from data lifecycle management to cybersecurity to digital transformation.
For me, AIIM is the place to catch up on all things related to information governance. And my roundtable session gave me a chance to talk with about forty information professionals about their plans and projects to address “Shared Folder Remediation.”
As the name implies, “Shared Folder Remediation” is a project or activity designed to address the risks and costs related to unmanaged content stored on shared network drives. As a group, we exchanged information about the scope of the problem, the risks of unmanaged content and how organizations are addressing this problem. Here’s what I learned.
A Problem with No Plan to Resolve
I went into the session assuming the problem is well-recognized, and I was right. Almost everyone raised their hand when I asked if their organization “has shared folders on network drives and recognize that those shared folders represent a significant risk.”
Many of the hands went down though when I asked if they “had a plan or program in place to address the problem.” And only two hands were left when I asked my third question, which was whether they had a “successful” program that addresses the unmanaged content in their shared folders. It turns out that while the problem is well-recognized, effective programs for dealing with the “dark content” hidden in shared folders are exceedingly rare.
When we dove into the issue, I found out (what I think is) the reason why. The programs and processes the participants talked about almost all shared one critical point of failure: They all required humans to take actions in order to process the content in the network repository. Some participants described how they insist users clean up folders, or run contests that incentivize them to do so. And these programs sounded like good efforts to drive changes in behaviors.
Technology to Help Solve the Problem
But I was skeptical before the discussion about whether any approach built primarily around changes in user behavior could work, and I left the conversation convinced that my skepticism was well deserved.
I was quite surprised that more people in the room were not aware of and employing the current generation of file and content analytics tools in their projects. In fact, Everteam was at the AIIM event specifically to show our everteam.discover solution, which allows an organization to investigate content in shared folder spaces (as well as any other repository) to identify redundant, obsolete and trivial content (ROT), as well as sensitive content like personal information.
I assumed that the availability of “AI” tools like ours, which leverage natural language and related techniques, was well known. What I learned, however, is that the new generation of Information Governance software solutions has not yet “crossed the chasm” to widespread awareness.
My role as moderator of the AIIM roundtable forbade me, of course, to “pitch my wares.” So I (mostly) held my tongue, but I did try to impress on the participants that governance and remediation projects built mostly around urging users to take voluntary action — or even mandatory action, in fact — will never catch up with the incoming deluge of content.
The reality is, that when it comes to the rapid accumulation of unmanaged content in spaces like shared folders, SharePoint, and cloud-based storage systems, computers got us into this, and we need to use computer technology to get us out. Only by leveraging emerging technologies that allow us to identify ROT, locate PII, enhance metadata and automatically classify content can we hope to address the risk that lurks within unmanaged and dark content accumulated over the course of years in the shared folders housed on our network drives.
Register for the webinar: How to Get Ready for GDPR with a Data Inventory to learn more about file analytics and how it helps with shared file remediation.