Five Steps to Gaining—and Maintaining—Big Data Sanity

A coping strategy for retooling your firm’s records and information management (RIM) policies can help you stare down the ever-growing wave of traditional and social media information.


FAST FACT: Deloitte’s 2012 Technology, Media & Telecommunications report projected that more than 90 percent of the Fortune 500 companies would have a Big Data initiative under way by the end of the year.

DID YOU KNOW? 39% of marketers polled in a 2012 study by Columbia Business School and the New York American Marketing Association said that Big Data is collected “too infrequently” or is “not real-time enough.”


Remember when Indiana Jones outran a huge boulder in Raiders of the Lost Ark? You may feel like you’re playing out a similar scene with Big Data—structured and unstructured data sets so large that they exceed the processing capability of your existing database management tools.

Tablets, smartphones and even e-readers are providing wide and deep channels for a rushing stream of blogs, emails, tweets and chats that join information from documents, databases, spreadsheets and other traditional data sources. At present, more than 2.7 zettabytes (2.7 billion terabytes) of digital data are swirling around, according to a December 2012 IDC forecast, and IDC predicts that will grow to more than 4 zettabytes in 2013.

Businesses face multiple challenges with this data rush. Among them: An overburdened IT infrastructure is a fertile environment for poor data quality. According to research from the digital marketers at Fathom, this can decrease operating revenue by as much as 35 percent.

Many companies are simply not equipped to handle Big Data. By 2018, the U.S. could face a shortage of 1.5 million managers and analysts with the skills to analyze Big Data and make effective decisions, according to a 2011 McKinsey Global Institute report.

Tame the Data Beast Within

It took a handful of smart moves for Indiana Jones to sidestep that boulder and turn the tide in his favor. You too can avert certain disaster—by considering these Big Data-taming records management steps.

Step 1: Get yourself organized—and name names.

First, define the parameters of your records management program by deciding to which information and departments the new guidelines will apply. You must also make sure new policies include both paper and electronic records, and inactive as well as active files. It’s also a good time to become familiar with all applicable regulatory requirements regarding data access, storage and retention.

In addition, you’ll need to assign roles to your colleagues. Identify representatives from different departments from whom input is essential—and be sure to name a corporate records manager or information governance officer to administer the program.

Step 2: Establish “Point A” to better identify “Point B.”

Where does your firm stand relative to its information management needs? Are you consistently and uniformly applying retention schedules across your organization? Knowing the answer will give you a laser-sharp vision of how to build a comprehensive and scalable information management program that suggests how you can:

  • Evaluate your existing program and identify areas of improvement
  • Conduct a thorough records inventory
  • Classify records across the board

It’s a Great Domestic Policy: Conduct Audits Regularly

How can you keep your records and information management program compliant? First, get buy-in from top management. Then consider appointing a corporate records manager or information governance officer. It also makes great sense to maintain an across-the-board, continuously improved audit process—one that holds your program to an established set of performance metrics.


Step 3: Develop a healthy obsession for Big Data policies and retention schedules.

Your RIM policies should go beyond traditional data sources to embrace social media, blogs, microblogs, tweets and mobile apps. Make sure they handle information with consistent best practices in mind, regardless of the data’s origin or format. And don’t neglect paper in this process—it long ago established its place at the hybrid-strategy table.

As you do this, be sure to conduct legal research, finalize your retention schedule, extend policies and procedures company-wide, and use secure document destruction to ensure confidentiality.

Step 4: Phase it in.

Once you think it’s up to snuff, roll out your plan in phases. You’ll need to integrate RIM processes with IT as you migrate legacy data and phase in document scanning.

Step 5: Share, share, and keep on sharing.

Well-informed employees are much more likely to embrace new policies and procedures if they understand their importance—especially when they see them consistently applied across your company.

You’ll need to define and track key metrics while managing data access and integrity. This includes security measures that ensure a solid chain of custody for potential e-discovery or audit requests. As always, a trusted partner can help fill in the gaps and make sure that Big Data is working for you—not the other way around.

Iron Mountain Recommends: Bring In a Partner

Indiana Jones said his only fear was snakes, but he never had to stare down Big Data. For help fording that stream, consider enlisting the services of a trusted partner with proven expertise in:

  • Records and information management (RIM). Any potential partner should have established bona fides in all aspects of records management. Look for one that understands how information works for your business and that will help match records management policies to your organization’s workflow.
  • Indexing and accessing data. Your information is useless without easy access. And the lag in answering e-discovery requests can cost you—in terms of fines, customer service failure and, ultimately, your professional reputation.
  • Secure document destruction and disposal. A qualified partner will make sure records are safely destroyed. You don’t want confidential information ending up as bits of confetti raining down on a Thanksgiving Day parade.
  • Storage options. Different data calls for different storage methods. Your vendor can help you match records to the best-suited storage option. In addition, your partner can provide climate-controlled, secure offsite storage—relieving management burdens and freeing up precious space at your offices.

Do you have questions about information management? Read additional Knowledge Center Small Business resources, or contact Iron Mountain’s Small Business team. You’ll be connected with a knowledgeable product and services Small Business specialist who can address your specific challenges.

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