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Information Governance: Managing Digital Debris

The ever-increasing growth of data content combined with complex legal and regulatory obligations makes information governance a critical business issue for organizations. In fact, nearly 70% of data generated by a company has no legal or business value, according to a report published by Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM), an organization dedicated to improving the electronic discovery process. To help organizations determine how to dispose of digital debris, EDRM has developed an Information Governance Reference Model (IGRM).

Defining and Identifying Digital Debris. Before implementing data-governance policies, organizations need to understand what data needs to be kept and what data has no legal or business value. The default method of keeping all data forever may ensure that an organization has all data required by various regulations. However, this method is expensive and unwieldy, particularly as data continues to proliferate at stunning rates. For example, the same email can typically be found in multiple places, such as on email servers, local and networked archives, on smartphones, in the cloud, and on disaster recovery tapes and drives. Other files—such as temporary work files duplicated in multiple locations, data stored on outdated technology and litigation copies—can slow system performance, increase litigation costs, and increase the risk of loss, theft, or breach of sensitive information.

The Information Governance Reference Model. The IGRM was developed to help organizations define an effective information governance strategy. At its core, the IGRM links the legal obligations and business utility of specific data to the stakeholders who create, consume, and manage that data. IGRM recognizes that information management should not be relegated only to IT teams. All creators and consumers of information in an organization must work together. To effectively implement IGRM and create a defensible data-disposal program, an organization must have effective leadership responsible for information governance, must implement policies and processes that link information to relevant stakeholders and must provide stakeholders with the technology and tools to implement the organization’s information governance policies and procedures.

Implementing the Information Governance Reference Model. A critical step in implementing an effective IGRM is assessing an organization’s existing information governance process. This assessment will help an organization identify weaknesses in its existing data management strategies. Based on the organization’s assessment, the responsibilities of information management can be divided among three key groups: business users; legal, risk, and regulatory departments; and IT organizations.

Designing and implementing an effective information governance program can result in a significant payoff by reducing an organization’s risks and costs relating to the storage and management of data.

Copyright © 2019 by Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP. All Rights Reserved.


About this Author

Stephanie "Tess" Blair, E-discovery and information governance attorney, Morgan Lewis

Tess Blair and her team offer full-cycle electronic discovery and information governance services to organizations across the globe. Tess is the founder and leader of Morgan Lewis’s eData practice, which seeks to combine great lawyering with technology and process to deliver real efficiency and value to clients. The team includes both lawyers and technologists who support a state-of-the-art data center and technology portfolio to deliver comprehensive counseling and technical services under one roof.

Rahul Kapoor, Intellectual property lawyer, Morgan Lewis

With a focus on commercial, intellectual property (IP), and technology transactions, Rahul Kapoor counsels clients on strategic alliances, joint ventures, and corporate partnering transactions in the technology and life science industries. He also handles standards body licensing structures, patent licensing, open source software strategy, e-commerce and privacy, supply and distribution agreements, consignment agreements, spinoffs and core technology licenses, and IT outsourcing transactions. Rahul is a member of the firm’s Advisory Board, leader of the India initiative and co-leader of the technology initiative, and previously served as the firmwide hiring partner.

Cindy L. Dole, Morgan Lewis, Technology IP Lawyer, Finance matters Attorney

Cindy L. Dole collaborates with clients at the intersection of technology, intellectual property (IP), and finance. In her technology-based transactional practice, she advises on matters including corporate partnering, open source software strategy, distribution and sales arrangements, cloud computing, and other electronic commerce (e-commerce). Additionally, Cindy helps companies develop and implement IP strategy in connection with financings, mergers, acquisitions, and initial public offerings (IPOs).