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Managing unstructured data vital to digital age info governance

How to properly manage vast amounts of unstructured data has become a common information governance obstacle for modern companies. As organizations try to transition unstructured data into a more manageable, structured form, it is important that they have automated information governance processes integrated into their engineering and design applications, according to information governance expert Jeffrey Ritter.

"Information governance allows all businesses to survive the extinction of unstructured data," Ritter said in a recent SearchCompliance webcast titled The Unstructured Data Extinction: Automated Governance in the Digital Age.

Managing unstructured data -- and even eliminating unstructured data altogether -- has become important to business success in the digital age, Ritter said, a long-time contributor to the SearchCompliance website who currently teaches courses on information governance and privacy engineering as an external lecturer at the University of Oxford and at Johns Hopkins University.

As managing unstructured data has become more of a business priority, governance tools and strategies must become more sophisticated, he added. For example, businesses have learned that any action taken on company data -- whether it is processed, computed, manipulated, transferred or deleted -- should be logged.

This is because the ability to locate structured data is essential for constant improvements to business efficiency, he said. Although this requires data to be deconstructed into very small units of information, it should still retain its identity and its applicable governance rules, he added.

In this webcast, Ritter talks about using his "Quantum Law" concept to better understand managing unstructured data and information governance in the 21st century.

Information governance allows all of our businesses to survive the extinction of unstructured data.
Jeffrey Ritterinformation governance expert

"What Quantum law anticipates is being able to author and apply the rules of governance within the machines rather than the file rooms," he said.

Automating governance can help ensure effective analysis of data assets even as they are deconstructed into very small units. Integrating automated information governance into business aspects, such as strategic planning, information security and compliance functions, will make sure the rules of governance applies to deconstructed  data across these different contexts, Ritter said.

These information governance design decisions will be complicated, however, and should include a wide range of stakeholders. Companies should also verify incoming data for its authenticity and check regularly whether the data is being governed properly, he added.

"We need to build our systems, our apps and our processes with the expectation of being able to verify compliance with the governance rules," Ritter said.

Effective information governance and managing unstructured data creates recorded histories of information assets that can be trusted as facts, Ritter said. This will benefit processes such as compliance audit management, which is reliant on accurate, trustworthy company data.

There are certainly obstacles to unstructured data governance, despite these small, hard-to-locate units of data being very beneficial to businesses. Intensive information classification is required to help understand exactly how data should be governed.

In addition, information governance and compliance professionals should keep in mind that with shifts in time, context and ecosystem, the data management rules need to be changed and applied differently, Ritter added.

"We are moving from a time in which we presume that all electronic information is true to a time in which we can affirmatively calculate what it is and know the rules by which it is governed on the fly," Ritter said. "That's quantum governance."

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