Please join the IGI and Preservica on November 16th at 11am ET for a webinar addressing The Governance & Preservation of Long-Term Digital Information. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER.
Barclay Blair, Founder and Executive Director, Information Governance Initiative (IGI)
Lori Ashley, Industry Market Development Manager, Preservica
Michael Hope, Director of Global Marketing, Preservica
This interview was conducted with Lori Ashley, Preservica – Industry Market Development Manager
The vast majority (89%) of practitioners who participated in the IGI 2016 Benchmark Report on The Governance of Long-Term Digital Information confirmed that their organizations have digital records and information that they keep or need to keep for 10 years. Since the research was conducted, what have you learned about the types of information that needs to be preserved for long-term access and use?
Let me first share that the research finding that organizations of all types and sizes have long-term digital information didn’t come as a surprise to me, and I welcomed the validation from IG practitioners. Before joining Preservica in May 2017, I advised more than 40 public and private sector organizations on good recordkeeping practices as an independent consultant, and learned firsthand about their wide-ranging retention requirements. Every organization had at least a few categories of information that they keep long-term, whether that was 25+ years, permanently or indefinitely until a future trigger event. And more than a few of my clients had dozens of categories of content that internal and external stakeholders expect will be managed well into the future.
Since joining the Preservica team, I have had many opportunities to learn from our customers, industry analysts, and a range of practitioners who shared their stories at this year’s conferences. These exchanges provided many more compelling use cases for long-term born-digital and digitized records and information that are essential to maintain compliance and keep their business operations running. The use cases come from core business functions – like Human Resources, Financial Management, Legal Services, and Corporate Governance – as well as from very specific industry requirements related to product development and manufacturing, financial and wealth management advisory services and account management, insurance policies, pension funds, mortgages, consumer protection, land and property rights, social services, and brand management. So as the benchmark study reported, the need for long-term digital preservation and access capabilities is pervasive.
What challenges are practitioners experiencing with regard to making the business case for technology solutions that are purpose-built for the unique requirements of long-term digital protection and access?
I’d like to highlight challenges with two specific stakeholder groups, namely IT and executive leadership. For many years, records and archives management professionals have worked to engage their IT colleagues in proactively addressing retention and disposition requirements as early in the lifecycle of content and the information systems that used to create and manage them. While there has certainly been progress and greater collaboration, in part through the advancement of Information Governance, the continuing focus on content analysis/classification and defensible disposition means that most organizations continue to struggle with overwhelming volumes of digital data and failure to apply their own retention rules. The reality is that organizations use many different strategies, applications and storage solutions to create and manage business information and records. This means that the content of long-term value is widely dispersed and has many different stakeholders and custodians. Current enterprise archiving practices used by IT may actually be hindering the organizations ability to both properly dispose of digital information and protect it for the long-term.
Preservica is witnessing an awakening by board directors and a number of C-suite roles to the business and risk mitigation benefits of proactively addressing long-term information access. Drivers include digital transformation, an uptick in acquisitions and mergers around the globe, as well as the 2018 deadline for implementation of the EU data privacy requirements (GDPR). This correlates to a recognition by IG practitioners in the 2017 benchmark survey results that executive leadership will bear the brunt of the failure to adequately protect and ensure access to long-term business information.
How is Digital Transformation (DX) impacting the need for digital preservation solutions?
Digital transformation is exponentially increasing the supply of digital content in all forms and formats that is used in business processes, as well as accelerating the rate of change in work practices, skills and technologies. Business and government leaders are making major investments and betting their organization’s success to customize and deliver products and services on their ability to manage dynamic and complex digital information systems and flows. As I noted, the emphasis in recent years has been on defensible disposition (getting rid of outdated, redundant and low value information) but there needs to be a complementary focus on ensuring the integrity, usability and authenticity of information that must survive successive generations of users, consumers and custodians.
What steps can practitioners take to help stakeholders, including senior level managers and executives who are accountable for vital mission critical information being available and useable, to understand the need for a digital preservation strategy and technology capabilities?
It is overwhelming to address all of the different types of contents and systems that manage digital resources of long-term value and use. I recommend that practitioners start small by identifying a specific collection with long-term retention and access requirements that is high value or at risk from technology or business changes. Engage directly with business owners to document the descriptive and technical characteristics of their content and access/use requirements over time. Follow that exercise with an analysis of the capabilities of the underlying technologies and develop a gap analysis for key components like integrity/fixity, metadata, and file format transformation. The Digital Preservation Capability Self-Assessment (www.DigitalOK.org), ISO 16363 audit and certification criteria, or the National Digital Stewardship Alliance (NDSA) levels of digital preservation (http://ndsa.org/activities/levels-of-digital-preservation/) are resources which can help in this effort. Practitioners should then present the combined results to their collaborators as well as up the chain of command to identify assumptions about the care and management of the content and to share recommendations and best practices on future-proofing the digital assets.
Why act now?
Preservica has identified a number of compelling reasons for organizations to advance their long-term digital preservation and access capabilities, and we look forward to exploring these areas and insights gleaned from the 2017 benchmark report in our joint webinar on November 16th.
As I mentioned, there is a lot of accumulated legacy digital content sitting in file shares, collaboration sites, ECM systems and line of business applications. There is a strong likelihood that some of this content is in unsupported and proprietary file formats and so need triage to be usable.
Organizations, especially those undergoing major digital transformations, are making major investments in creating digital information assets that need protection. Practitioners are well advised to “follow the money” to high profile strategic and operational initiatives and offer to help future-proof the investments through good long-term information management practices.
Preparations for the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which goes into effect in the European Union next May is currently driving a lot of activity related to data inventories and analysis. We are confident that information classified as part of this process, both personally identifiable and not specific to “data subjects”, will have long-term retention and access requirements. Using this exercise to drive greater awareness of the risks of technology obsolescence and develop digital preservation strategies for protecting and securing this information could deliver great benefits.
And finally, it will not be possible for organizations to meet the long-term commitments they have made to provide benefits and deliver services to stakeholders which include employees, customers, partners, consumers and citizens if they cannot find, access and use critical digital information. There’s no time like the present to assess capabilities to meet future obligations.