IS THE BIGGEST RISK OF BIG DATA THE INABILITY TO EXTRACT VALUE?

When we think about the risks associated with “Big Data”—the massive piles of information accumulating around us—what concerns us most? Data breaches, perhaps? Finding the smoking gun documents during litigation or an investigation?

Barclay T. Blair (IGI Founder & Executive Director) has a very different take. During a TechTarget interview with Ben Cole during the ARMA International Conference (October 2014), Barclay remarked, “I think the biggest big data risk is not being able to extract insight and value from your data. If an organization doesn’t create that capability, they are falling behind because their competitors are doing it.”

Barclay does, of course, acknowledge that there are risks associated with not deleting data—uncovering a damaging document during a legal proceeding, for example. If the document exists, one has to turn it over. But, he is quick to note that the main “problem” an organization faces under such circumstances isn’t the document that reveals the bad behavior but the underlying bad behavior itself.

Barclay is also not convinced that retention and deletion schedules help in the long run because generally organizations simply aren’t getting rid of what they could anyway. According to Barclay:

“The intention of a retention schedule is to provide a tool and give confidence that we can throw stuff away. In reality, it just isn’t happening. Here’s the problem with getting rid of information: Corporate culture abhors decisions that are irreversible. If you are an executive or a decision maker, the scariest decision is one that is not undoable, because if it fails you’re gone, basically. Deletion is that kind of decision.”

He notes that organizations compare the costs of keeping information (and storage costs continue to be driven downward) to the perceived risks of making the wrong and irreversible decision to hit delete, and many opt for a defacto “keep everything” policy. Barclay also argues the least value an IG professional can offer is providing an answer to the keep or delete question. The “real value” in his mind is to leverage IG to enable “data-driven business models” that can comply with legal, regulatory, and other obligations.

Read the full interview here.

One thought on “IS THE BIGGEST RISK OF BIG DATA THE INABILITY TO EXTRACT VALUE?

  1. Ron Layel, IGP

    Barclay, to your point about increasing futility of records retention/disposition schedules and management’s abhorrence of the irreversible destruction decision, it seems even worse in Fed. Government. While following NARA approved retention schedules is a matter of law and regulation, NARA now seems to be codifying the default position of “keep everything”. I many of their recently updated General Records Schedules (the GRS), they use language like, “dispose of X years after Y, but longer retention is authorized if needed for business use.” Of course this may not actually result in much change in practice, because there has really never been much enforcement of GRS adherence — no personal accountability, no penalty for unauthorized destruction, nor repercussion for failure to dispose of records when authorized.

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