There’s a trend of home organization and decluttering projects happening right now. Before and after photos of freshly decluttered pantries, offices and closets have been circulating social media for the last few weeks, and for good reason! As we hunker down in our homes and do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19, many of us are looking for ways to regain a sense of order and control during a time that is anything but orderly or within our control.
So why should your business be any different?
We are now more digitally reliant than ever before. But our digital records are fragile, susceptible to loss and often disorganized or scattered. This has become an overlooked risk to businesses. So, while others might be taking stock of their pantry, deciding what should stay or go, and labelling items to make them easier to find, so too should business leaders, enterprise architects, CIOs and CMOs.
According to a recent Forrester report, digital fragility “imperils our ability to access knowledge generated in digital forms by companies, consumers, or institutions for the long term.” (Forrester, 2019)
If measures aren’t taken to preserve information assets, organizations will suffer the permanent loss of valuable (if not vital) information, content, intellectual property and brand product—and this, comes at a cost.
In 2019, McDonald’s lost what they believed were their trademark rights to “Big Mac” because they failed to provide sufficient proof of its “genuine use” over a five-year period. Despite providing evidence such as posters, packaging and printouts, the EU Intellectual Property Office revoked their registration of the trademark.
But brand and trademark threats aren’t the only costly price of digital fragility. The legal industry has been suffering the effects of link rot for years, in which court filings cite online materials that no longer exist. As of 2018, a review conducted of the top 3 law firms in the US found that more than 80% of their court filings had at least one broken link which led to supporting information that was no longer usable in court.
In fact, digital fragility can be even more insidious than lost or broken links. We’re experiencing it every day in the most routine tasks of work: document management.
A study by International Data Corporation (IDC) Canada found that productivity is impacted by as much as 21% when files, documents and data are inaccessible. Additionally, workers were found to spend an average of 18 minutes searching for a document, which often leads to recreating it and contributing to redundant assets.
While businesses recognize the value of being digital, many still underestimate the challenges and threats of poor document management protocols.
Take for example storage: saving documents requires users to consistently save to a company’s approved storage location, whether that be a local server or a shadow-storage solution. But, without the right governance employees are all too often tempted to save files to hard drives or a non-approved shadow storage making their files, work product, and corporate intellectual property inaccessible to others.
Another challenge that contributes to digital fragility is version control, which is often at the discretion of the individual users. This inevitably leads to overwritten files, deletion, or simply inconsistent file naming conventions.
So, how do you start mitigating the risks of digital fragility? With the basics of organization. As we mentioned above, now’s the time to regain some order and control (whether in pantries, closets or within your company’s digital assets).
1. Look at everything, everywhere.
This means go into every nook and cranny to find redundant, obsolete and trivial data that’s cluttering up your network and systems.
2. Toss. (Recycle.)
In the spirit of professional organizers everywhere, decide what must be kept and what is safe to delete. Evaluate anything that should be preserved but requires recycling, repurposing or relocating.
3. Know the rules.
Understand your data holdings as they relate to Data Privacy and Risk Assessment.
4. Sort, Categorize and Label.
Identify the document type of every unstructured file that is accessible on the network. Ricoh’s File Analysis service leverages Next-Gen Machine Learning and AI to achieve this.
Don’t go at it alone
If the thought of organizing and decluttering your digital data sounds overwhelming, we can help.
Work with a team of expert consultants who can guide you through the process of mitigating digital fragility. From performing file analysis, developing information governance strategies to securing your intellectual property we can help protect your most valuable assets for the long term.