ROT ‘n’ Numbers

In his seminal work Out of the Crisis , famed statistician and management consultant W. Edward Deming wrote, “Inspection does not improve the quality, nor guarantee quality. Inspection is too late. The quality, good or bad, is already in the product.” While written in 1982, even now in the information age increasingly defined by big data analytics, these words still resonate. And it may be that viewing an organization’s information assets through a quality management lens can help an organization not simply inspect but retrofit quality into its information ecosystem.

The growth of information and its value as a product (whether internally or externally facing) was largely accretive. The explosion of data was not planned. And managing data: its protection, monetization, creation, storage, use, and deletion were necessarily derived after the fact. So too the needed policies, sorting of roles and responsibilities, and metrics. What resulted in the interim is proving to be a source of great cost and risk.

Failing Inspection

Inspection of Information Governance (InfoGov, or IG) “quality” has produced some eye-opening results. It is estimated that 2% to 5% of an organization’s files are lost or misfiled. As a result, it is further estimated that an employee spends approximately 400 hours (20% of their time) just searching for documents. This translates into a staggering cost.

Numbers like $120 in labor to find a single missing document and $220 to reproduce a single lost document are bandied about. But ultimately it depends on who is looking for or remaking the document. For example, contract management systems have experienced significant growth in recent years due to the countless demoralizing hours corporate attorneys spend searching for contracts and the information within them. And this says nothing of the cost associated with slowed sales processes, impact to DSO (Days Sales Outstanding) metrics, or the significant risks associated with using an outdated contract template.

As egregious as these results are, they pale in comparison to the impact of “ROT.” Redundant, Obsolete, and Trivial data. In fact, a 2012 Survey compiled by the Compliance Governance and Oversight Council (CGOC) found that 69% of electronically stored information (ESI) has no legal, regulatory, or business value at all.

Designing Quality into InfoGov

Here is where a product quality lens is particularly compelling: If information is product, ROT is a critical (but avoidable) defect. Fortunately, the tools and services exist to design quality into an organization’s information assets.

Data mapping and file analysis tools and services, for example, do more than simply “inspect.” When expertly deployed, they provide a roadmap to, and enable the processes for, ridding your organization of ROT. And with it the cost, risk, and vulnerabilities that ROT represents. As a go-forward strategy, file analysis strategies provide the insights needed to manage your file stores and bring information governance and document management policies into action. It is the first step to designing quality into InfoGov.

Ultimately, governing information with a focus on information quality will extract more value. Continued acceptance of low quality (aka ROT), will extract ever-increasing costs and risks.

To learn more about the true value of IG, check out our eBook on the topic.


Andrew Spett, Esq., IGP, CIGO
Senior eDiscovery Consultant, Ricoh – USA

Andrew is a licensed attorney in the State of California, having previously practiced with the Insurance Defense and Construction Defect groups at a mid-sized law firm in San Francisco.  Andrew has been employed in the Information Governance, Computer Forensic, and eDiscovery field since 2006.  He presently works as a Senior eDiscovery Consultant with Ricoh USA.

He may be reached at [email protected]

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