Dealing with Dark Content

Process Automation is Key to Managing Dark Content

One of the most common information governance challenges we talk to customers about is finding and organizing content from across the organization – often referred to as “Dark Content”.

Content is found everywhere: in file shares and SharePoint, in business applications, on desktops, in cloud-based file sharing and storage applications. Knowing exactly what information you have and where it is located is critical to managing it effectively.

This is the “dark content” use case:

“I need to evaluate, clean up, remediate and categorize unknown content in shared folders, SharePoint or other repositories to reduce risks and costs.”

Dealing with Dark Content

What are some of the key requirements for addressing this use case effectively?

  • Connect disparate content repositories, respecting security rights
  • Index all content in a single place to support searching across all information at once
  • Set up and apply filters to sort content by metadata or other properties
  • Search by facets, keywords, and metadata

These are the capabilities needed to understand and evaluate your content. But they constitute only the first half of the requirement. Because after you find, classify and organize dark content, you need to take action on it.

Taking action starts with making decisions. In some cases, you’ll want to delete content no longer required or content that is duplicated. For other content, you may want to move it to an archive or another location that is properly secured. You may also want to enrich or modify the metadata associated with specific types of content to improve its findability.

To do these things quickly and easily you need process automation.

Managing Dark Content with Process Automation

There is a long list of file analytics tools available to help you connect and analyze your content. But once you understand what you have and make decisions on what to do with some of that content, your file analytics tool may not be enough to help you.

A process automation (or workflow) engine provides the ability to set up workflow rules that execute actions on your content. For example, you organize and tag a set of content as “ROT,” – content that is no longer required and should be deleted. Tagging content as ROT kicks off a process that includes setting up a workflow to route the files to a group of people who need to review the content and approve its deletion. Once approved, those files are destroyed and audit logs created to show who approved the deletion and when they were deleted.

Typically you have to get these two capabilities – file analytics and process automation/workflow separately and integrate them through customization to get them to work together. Because what you want to do is tag your content as ROT in the file analytics tool and automatically have a workflow kicked off to deal with that content.

But what if your file analytics and process engine were already tightly integrated into a single tool? It would make things a lot easier to set up and work with.

I use dealing with ROT as one example. Other examples of workflows include archiving content that you no longer need on a daily basis but need to keep for compliance reasons and content that you need to place under records retention but want to manage in place.

With all of these examples, you have to consider the security of the content you are dealing with. Does your workflow tool have the right permissions to go into a content repository and delete or move the content? Can it modify it?

You also want to have full auditing of all actions taken during the process to prove what was done, when, and by whom.

Wrapping Process Around Dark Content Management

The right file and content analytics tool will incorporate process automation so you can set up end to end workflows for dealing with dark content. It’s not enough just to connect all your repositories so you can search across them; you need to take action on the content to clean and organize it. That action requires automated workflows, especially when you are dealing with a great deal of content – which most organizations are.

You can learn more about dealing with dark content and the benefits of analytics with integrated process automation by checking out the resources on our Dark Content Challenges page.

Want to talk about how you can deal with your dark content? Connect with us today.