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It’s that time of year when everyone opens up their windows and cleans out the grit and grime. And businesses are no different.

Businesses must do their own spring cleaning -- of their content. Among the valuable information are thousands -- if not tens of thousands -- of documents that are Redundant, Obsolete and Trivial (ROT).

When staff need to ensure the organization is in compliance or locate critical data, ROT documents make it much more challenging for employees to find the right information in a reasonable timeframe.

Unfortunately, organizations often fail to address this problem. Either they don’t know where to start or it appears to be an impossible task.

Cleaning Out the Cobwebs

Here are a few tips to help successfully scope and start a manageable spring cleaning project to improve your organization’s information governance:

  • Take an inventory of where important documents reside. Organizations have more data repositories, systems of record and document sharing tools than ever before. This is also where those digital dust bunnies -- a.k.a. ROT -- collect.
  • Identify the types of data and documents that are critical to the organization. Look to Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) in the organization to prioritize all types of mission critical information. SMEs are identified by three main criteria: self-declared knowledge on the subject, identification by others within the organization, and by the focus of their work.
  • Pick a data repository that is most likely to have critical documents to focus on first. SMEs can take on the arduous task of analyzing each type of document with all its variations. It’s also possible to use automated processes that are based on a representative sample set to establish rules that can be used and applied automatically. Leveraging software may lead to much more efficient ROT elimination.
  • Establish the metadata or key data about each document type. This process is critical for successful information governance. This data isn’t simply used to find and retrieve documents. It also includes governance-focused data for access control, privacy policies and potential business value.
  • Classify and assign metadata for all documents in the repository. This may mean manually reviewing documents and assigning metadata or relying on software to do the heavy lifting. If the organization wants to leverage software, look for technology that automatically assigns documents to their respective classes, extracts and assigns metadata, and then exports it to their destination of choice. During this classification process, ROT is readily revealed by its lack of relevance.

Completing these essential chores leads to a spring cleaning that rids the organization of ROT. Unnecessary documents are no longer getting in the way of efficient and cost-effective information governance.

Title image Siobhan Fagan/Feel free to use it