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HP Software's community for IT leaders // February 2012

Don’t fight ‘big data’— control it

Information is only a problem if you don’t know what to do with it. Learn the five practical benefits of information governance before your data gets any bigger.

“Big data” and “information explosion” are terms that generate increasing concern among IT leaders. Certainly data is growing at a furious rate: According to HP research, mankind created 150 exabytes of digital data in 2005. In 2010, it created eight times more. And we’re creating and storing that information across more platforms than ever, including multimedia, social media, and RFID and sensor data.

“There are customers drowning in information,” says HP Senior Solutions Architect Thomas Ruske. “Application performance is slowing down, backup windows are increasing, and they can’t predict their storage growth any longer, which goes hand in hand with the predictability of the IT budget.”

Yet data itself isn’t the trouble. Information is only problematic when our information governance fails to tell us what it is or what we need to do with it.

“Information governance manages information as an asset, with foresight and consideration,” Ruske says. Enterprises willing to create automated processes to identify and value business data can take control of information before the big-data onslaught swamps them. As a result, they can meet key corporate objectives, such as lowering costs, lowering risk and making better business decisions.

Demystifying information
A business classification initiative lets an enterprise assess its data. There are two important characteristics of information:

  1. What the information is (for example, an email)
  2. Its context (who wrote it, on what day, and to what subjects or entities it refers)

This knowledge is readily available with structured information that relates to a business application transaction, but with unstructured information, such as email or Word documents, context is usually absent. Surfacing this hidden context via a deep inventory of enterprise data is one of the critical goals of a business classification initiative.

Once the classification initiative is complete, the business can utilize the knowledge it uncovered to strengthen its governance processes, which is where true business value is created.

“Information classification identifies optimization opportunities related, generally, to cost, value and risk,” Ruske says.

Getting to governance
Once you know what you’ve got, you can better manage it. Information governance is the ability to guide and tame data, preventing it from costing more than necessary, yet ensuring it is at hand when and where it's needed.

“We’re already observing that people are spending far more time looking for information than actually using it,” Ruske notes.

The practical benefits of information governance include:

  • Better customer service—Customer-facing agents can quickly find any and all information about a customer and his or her transactions.
  • Shorter sales cycles—With contextual information, you can draw meaning, make better business decisions and close more business with less effort.
  • Better business intelligence—Fast access to historical data can make the difference between an optimal decision and a haphazard guess.
  • Greater regulatory compliance—Gathering data for an audit can be done simply and efficiently.
  • Reduced legal costs—A fast and thorough e-discovery response cuts expenses and can increase the likelihood of a favorable settlement or ruling.

Most importantly, when you don't know what your data is, you're forced to treat all data equally, which is not only inefficient and expensive, but inherently risky. Information governance can significantly reduce the cost of maintaining information, no matter how much it grows or diversifies.

No time like the present
Business classification is only the first step in a larger process of organizing enterprise records management. It's a big undertaking. But your data will never be any smaller or manageable than it is right now. The sooner you take control of your information, the more manageable your task will be. More importantly, the sooner you will enrich your organization with agility, high performance, optimized decision-making and lower costs.

To find out more about the process of classifying business information, see our white paper, "Establishing a best practice enterprise classification scheme," and read more about the benefits of enterprise records management.


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