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Meta Scrambled Equals Team!

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Metadata is data about data – and it’s a vital element of an information lifecycle management strategy.

I’m an anagram fanatic (if you are too, check out the Word Warp app – it’s addictive). When I was thinking about writing this blog, it popped into my head that a perfectly apt anagram for “meta” is “team”. While working with RIM and IG peers to create an information lifecycle metadata (ILM) standard over the past year, it became evident that, as with most aspects of managing information, it takes a team to be successful.

So, what is metadata? Literally, it’s “data about data.” Metadata can tell us what the content is and the characteristics it possesses. Metadata consists of properties (such as Record Owner, Document Type, Dates, Legal Holds) and their associated values (John Doe, project plan).

Creating, assigning and maintaining relevant metadata is critical for the responsible management of both physical and electronic records. Metadata is indispensable for purposes of locating records, data and information; establishing ownership; identifying PII (personally identifiable information); applying legal holds; finding data for analytics and monetization, and for identifying records that have fulfilled their retention period and thus are eligible for destruction.

Metadata can also be used to determine who has authority to view and edit records. It’s critically important for legal, audit, compliance, IT, business units or regulatory activities because it helps demonstrate the authenticity and reliability of the requested information – it’s a team effort because it’s an enterprise requirement.

Over the past five years, Iron Mountain’s Customer Advisory Board (CAB) has produced practical guides to address common thorny information management issues such as event-based retention, monitoring and measuring compliance and moving to an Information Governance culture. This year, the CAB has created an ILM metadata standard guide, the heart of which includes a two-tiered set of metadata elements. Our hope is that it will inspire uniformity across all industries and facilitate your own efforts to become more effective information managers.

The first tier is comprised of five essential elements – the bare minimum for managing information (including records and data). They are:

  • Unique identifier
  • Record Retention Class Code
  • Record Class Jurisdiction
  • Retention Start Date
  • Preservation Status

The second tier is comprised of expanded elements related to discovery, information security and privacy. The selection of elements in this tier must be aligned with your own institution’s needs. The list is not necessarily definitive, so you may be required to supplement the standard with unique elements.

Because information is created, maintained, accessed, preserved and managed by a variety of stakeholders across your organization, effort must be given to engage as many stakeholders as you can as you finalize your information lifecycle metadata standard to reflect your business needs and increase adoption.

Intrigued? We encourage you to use the guide (a partial anagram of intrigued J) to unscramble your metadata tangle. Download the Metadata Standard Guide today.

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