Monday, December 12, 2011

Is It Potentially Relevant?

Remember, no matter what Daisies you WANT to chuck, you can’t take ANY action unless you make sure the information is not even potentially relevant and/or needed for threatened, imminent or active lawsuits, investigations or audits. Take for example the Hackergate investigation. That’s the case of News Corp. journalists hacking into the voice mails of people in the news to learn insights into their lives so they could report on the information. Lots of folks are under scrutiny (and they have already shut down the offending newspaper in England) because of the scandal. However, as reported in the Wall Street journal on December 12, 2011 in an article entitled ‘Hacking Investigation Questions Who Erased Voice Mails’, the investigation is focusing on the deletion of the certain voice mail messages as such action might point to the guilty party.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Randy Kahn says . . .

Press Release: Autonomy Unveils Meaning-Based Policy Control Solution for Governance and Compliance

"Businesses need a comprehensive tool to automatically and consistently administer policies and determine risk," said Randolph Kahn, founder of Kahn Consulting and author of "Information Nation". "Autonomy is taking a unique approach to implementing and managing policies to govern the lifecycle of information."

Read the full Press Release here.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Records Memorialize

NY Times reports that an “independent investigative committee found that the governor of Saga prefecture told the operator, Kyushu Electric Power, to send e-mails supporting the restart of two reactors at the company’s Genkai Nuclear Power Station. The company has already admitted to ordering employees to pose as regular citizens by sending e-mails during an online town hall-style meeting in June over whether to allow the restart of the reactors.”

Records memorialize and can hurt. Time for some business ethics, risk management and email training. Nice job Japan - Allow a disaster to happen and add insult upon injury until you have no credibility. Brilliant.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Your Business Needs to Rightsize

A Dozen Really Good Reasons Why Your Business Needs to Rightsize its Information Footprint

“Rightsizing Your Information Footprint” is my made-up term for turning your Information Parking Lots into a Goldie Locks and the Three Bears amount of information — not too much, not too little, but just the right amount. There is too much digital content with more created continuously. We need to clean up the past in a defensible way. While the daisies are beautiful at the beginning of their life, they lose their appeal as they decay. The same is generally true for information. Businesses also need a better path forward so that content comes into being because the business needs it, and all records are better managed.

Too much stuff, you fail to be business efficient and you get your clock cleaned when litigation strikes.
Too little information, you can’t run your business and you fail to comply with record keeping requirements, among other things.

So here are 12 remarkably compelling reasons to Rightsize, right now:

1. Information is growing at such a rapid rate that costs related to storing, finding, using, migrating, extracting, preserving information are too high
2. Knowing what information exists and where it is parked to be able to efficiently run your business is too complex
3. Technology has failed to find a good way to manage content with little impact to employee productivity (but Kahn is working on auto-classification to help)
4. Employees get too much content to be able to properly manage it
5. Content has sat for years in old Information Parking Lots and it is a decaying asset (Working on my new book called Chucking Daisies to help companies deal with this precise issue)
6. Companies spend too much time looking through way too much irrelevant stuff to respond to litigation, audits and investigations
7. Companies have out of date records used against them in litigation, which could have been disposed earlier
8. Systems are breaking down or no longer work as efficiently as they should, due to information volume burden
9. Data parking lots are being ill-managed and that failure is causing other failures, not the least of which is failing to harness needed information to be “faster, better and cheaper.”
10. Going Green. No list is complete until it has a bit of Green. Technology is using all kinds of energy and by cutting your energy, emission and every other relevant footprint, you are greener, you look better to the outside world and maybe the marketers have something Green to say about the effort
11. Information finds itself on unsanctioned data Parking Lots, when sanctioned ones fill up, making life more challenging
12. Along with volume, growth has been the creator of many new Information Parking Lots (Smart phones, Cloud, Twitter, Blogs, etc.) which makes management that much more challenging

Rightsizing will never be as easy as it is right now as information Parking Lots grow and grow. Clean house of digital data junk. Develop a thoughtful plan for future information retention. Rightsize now because it’s good business.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Too much data is bad

The June 30, 2011, The Economist covers a story about “Too Much Information” and “How to cope with data overload.” At a minimum that means the folks across the pond are also realizing at some point too much data is a bad thing. The business world is at the place where we are over run with digital stuff and it is now taking away a competitive advantage, negatively impacting customer response times and impacting our ability to be the nimble business machine honed to win.

I have been writing about this topic for years but now it is at a point that business executives need to act. We have more technologies making more content with or without our involvement 24-7. Data volume nearly double every year and we couldn’t manage last year’s stuff efficiently. It only gets harder and something has to give. The real answer is not building bigger clouds of storage stacks. We can’t keep everything forever and there must be a prudent way to make wheat/chaff decisions about what should exist and what can be disposed of.

Three things you need to think to do right now:
1. Develop a team to start to clean up the past. Existing data needs to go away according to law and policy now.
2. Better decisions need to be made about what comes into existence. Not everything needs to be retained.
3. Directives that stop the wheels of progress due to FUD (Fear,Uncertainty and Doubt)should not rule the day. Fight the lawyer’s shotgun approach to preservation. For example, if back up tapes are recycled regularly don’t stop that process if a lawsuit if filed, unless required to.

Get your information house in order. Your business depends on it.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Three Bears Solution

Can I get rid of all that “old” information tomorrow?

“My company is so full of info debris that we are no longer efficient." “Hey Randy, why can't we just get rid of everything right now and have clean servers and start fresh tomorrow?" Seems like a wonderful idea. After all its spring time—the perfect time for spring cleaning.

Don’t hit the delete button so fast, bucko. You can’t just blow everything away tomorrow and here is why.

Four compelling reasons why jail would be so not fun.
1. I don’t want a forced roommate.
2. I like going OUT for Asian food.
3. I don’t do well when told when to eat, sleep, relax, exercise etc. I like freedom.
4. I like to travel and jail would severely limit my freedom of movement.

Ok, so the law requires that records are retained. Every business, big and small is required to retain records of their business.

Four compelling business reasons why destroying everything immediately is stupid.
1. How can you manage your day-to-day and long range business activities without records?
2. How do you know what your business rights and obligation are if you don’t have documentation?
3. How will you manage employees and customer relationships without something to rely upon?
4. How will you keep managers, board members, and executives apprised of what’s going on?

Ok, so there are business reasons to manage records and have a way to access and retrieve content to run your business.

The issue of over-retention of information is a major issue for most businesses today. Way too many companies are storing too much stuff, way too long. That equates to real money which could be better used for other business activities. So, more is not necessarily better. All is not tenable. Too little is a business impediment and a legal headache waiting to happen. So, I need a Three Bears Solution—“This pile of information is too big, this pile of information is too small. Oh—this pile of information is just right.” Easy in the porridge business. Not so easy in the information management business.

So, let me help you start to think about getting your business to the place that says we have just the right amount—not too much, not too little.

In order to retain the right amount of information, you first have to know what information you have, what business value it provides and the many legal, regulatory and compliance needs for the information. Then, by considering all those inputs you can determine how long to retain the information. As with anything, there is always an end to the value. This explains why you shouldn’t keep everything forever.

Now, I’m sure there is a whole bunch in the email system, on shared drives, on old servers, etc. just screaming to go to the info graveyard right now. But, how can you get rid of the data that has been stored and ill-managed over time. First, you need to do due diligence around what information exists. Second, you need to determine what information is subject to any audit, investigation or litigation preservation obligations. In that case, the information has to continue to exist until the matter is over and lawyers say it’s OK to destroy. Finally, you need to assess what record retention rules apply. It gets rather complicated pretty quick, so if you have question, please don’t hesitate to ask. Send your questions to Better being safe than sorry.

Finally, I strongly believe in cleaning house but in today’s litigation environment you need to do it in a defensible way. No doubt leaner running is better business. But, innocent house cleaning can be considered “destruction of evidence” so clean with a documented plan that is followed and blessed by the business folks and the lawyers.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Time for Spring Cleaning

Long ago, certain Indian tribes were given plots of land out west from the Federal government because the US took their real land years earlier. Thereafter, the Federal government realized that the land they had given out could be used for mining, grazing, extracting oil and gas and other money making ventures. So the federal government told the Indian land owners they would lease their land out for them and deposit the proceeds into accounts set up for the benefit of the Indian landowners. Well, things didn’t go as planned. In fact, many Indians didn’t receive what they thought they should be receiving and the monies from the leases weren’t finding their way into Indian hands. So after many years of trying to get what they had coming to them, in 1996ish, the Indians decided to sue the federal government. They sued for an accounting of the monies taken in from the leases and where the money was being dispersed. The problem was that the federal government had done a really bad job at record keeping so they weren’t even sure what went where and to whom.

Let me share a civics lessons I learned in middle school — the government is here for the US people (which includes Indians) and are put in a position of trust because they are believed to be able to do right by the people of the country. When the money didn’t come as expected the trust began to be eroded (actually the Indians trust in US had been eroded over a couple centuries pretty substantially any way).

As the lawsuit got underway, what was really clear is that there was so much information which had been mismanaged over decades, piecing together what really happened was going to be a major challenge. In deed, the Wall Street Journal, a paper which focuses on business and business failures, asserted the prediction that unearthing and producing records and evidence in the lawsuit would cost in the billions just to see if anything was relevant.

Let me share lessons learned from our consulting practice. If you don’t start cleaning info crud up, you fail to be as efficient a business as you can be and run a huge risk if a lawsuit or audit happens.

Back to our saga. Years go by, and the government gets lambasted for record keeping failure after record keeping failure of various kinds by the court. High-level government officials are held in contempt, get wacked for gross mismanagement, security failures etc.

After roughly 17 years of litigating the case is about to settle for around 3 billion dollars.

Seems like bad business all around.

Spring cleaning time folks. Get serious about cleaning over retained records. If you don’t know where to start, call us.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Records speak for themselves

Peter king, the Congressman that heads up the Homeland Security Committee, is preparing for hearings to evaluate the threat and security risk presented by the American Muslim community. Seems prudent as Muslims seem to be the only folks blowing themselves up the world over on a daily basis to kill, maim and scare. Muslims from many places around the world hate America and have acted to kill us and would act again if given the chance. Seems like there are innumerable data points to suggest that King’s efforts are prudent. That doesn’t mean that all Muslims are terrorists. Rather it means that there are enough data points to evaluate the risk posed by the community.

Then I read the WSJ story about this issue. According to the report the Obama administration’s deputy national security adviser apparently attacked Congressman King’s hearings stating to a group of Muslims “…and let’s remember that just as violence and extremism are not unique to any faith…” That’s true but there is overwhelming information that there are radical Muslims in every corner of the globe willing to take on and/or take out the Judeo-Christian heritage. I’m a student of history and I’m not a fan of Political Correctness. Let the records of the past 10 years speak for themselves. Records record. Evidence Provides. Political Correctness denies.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Cleaning house is good but know when to stop.

As I have written about many times, even predating the Massey mines disaster that killed 29 miners last year, there are so many record keeping issues that are part of the mining industry. From the government database tracking mining disasters, to documenting safety infractions, record keeping is central to getting it right and reporting on what went wrong. But let’s leave that for a moment to talk about the latest developments in the Massey mine saga.
The security chief at Massey was indicted yesterday for covering stuff up, including destroying safety records after the 29 miners were killed. I’m not sure whose bright idea it was to “clean house” allegedly nefariously (AKA destroying evidence, or spoliation) after the guy, the company, or both knew they were in deep dodo. One thing is clear, when cleaning house happens to cover your tracks when you know (or reasonable should anticipate) there will be lawsuits or government investigations or both, that is the time to not destroy anything. Unless of course you are desirous of having a new boy friend and a limited meal plan while doing time.
Interestingly, in the case the General Counsel of Massey claimed that they advised the U.S. attorney's office “within hours of learning that documents” had been destroyed “and took immediate steps to recover documents and turn them over to the U.S. attorney's office."

Lessons-- Have retention rules that allow you to clean house. Cleaning house is good cause it gets rid of the crud to allow you to be a more efficient business. However, at the first smell of trouble stop cleaning house and preserve everything that may be potentially relevant if you have a lawsuit, investigation or audit coming.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Let Employees Park Their Data Where They Want?

Face it, employees don’t really care about records management. They believe it is somebody else’s problem. After all, it isn’t in their job description and it doesn’t make money - right?

The saying, “don’t try to put a square peg in a round hole” holds true when trying to park or store corporate information. Employees want the flexibility and user interface that SharePoint offers, so why fight it? Forcing employees into a rigid, non-friendly records management storage environment will only cause them to squirrel away data into their own storage environments such as hard drives, removable media, home PCs, etc. Let them use SharePoint if they want to - just get the right governance and controls in place behind the scene, upfront. It is better to give employees the environment they want, and are willing to use, then to force them to go underground with their data. Records management governance can be practically transparent to the end user in SharePoint, if done correctly. The employee gets the environment they want and the corporation gets the governance they want. Both win!

Brightstarr has partnered with Kahn Consulting, an industry leader in information management, to aid corporations in the use of SharePoint as their records management tool of choice. Let us help you manage your SharePoint environment to meet compliance requirements and give your employees an environment they love to work in.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Information Flows

Information flows. Sometimes really fast. Sometimes it causes waves that are unintended and even seriously problematic. For example, email was never intended to be the business medium of choice for all business for all reasons. I’m sure no one ever thought that secret email communiqu├ęs from Arabian leaders supporting the US taking military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities would be disclosed. Wikileaks has made many government officials blush about many secrets sent in email form. Thus there is fall out. Ok, Enough of that.

I came up with a really great idea. Tell me what you think. I was going to advance an idea that changes the world with Twitter or FaceBook or any of the social networking sites. I was going to call it “Social Networking Overthrowing Totalitarianism” or “SNOT” for short. That way a few people in lands where leaders are not democratically elected can overthrow the bums. But wait, is the whole world ready for democracy? Do they really aspire for that type of freedom? Is the guy that stepped down actually a bum? Maybe he is way better than what will be coming. Overthrowing a “life-long” president, for example, doesn’t mean that democracy rings out all over.

Recently we failed to support our friend in Egypt and due to pressure “from the street” he was forced to step down. Remember he was our friend for years. We gave him billions of dollars in military support and some of our military technology. Now Egypt has the military running the show. A step forward?

When or if they have an election in Egypt, what if the Muslim Brotherhood is elected “fair and square?” What if another terrorist organization uses the democratic process to gain power so they could impose Sharia (Islamic law) on everyone. Maybe they will countenance the continued harassment and killing of the Coptic Christians. If it happens I guess I could change the name of my organization to “Social Networking Overthrowing Theocracy” or “Social Networking Overthrowing Thugs”.

Nuts. I just realized the Arab world is on fire in places like Bahrain, Syria, Iran all because information is flowing way too fast. Now maybe my organization is moot. I am so last week.


Friday, February 11, 2011

Plan, anticipate and deal now.

My mantra for every new technology used in the business context is that there will be employees that misuse the technology or otherwise create liability or a major headache or both. Years ago I wrote about an employee who used the company email system to rank on his employer, more specifically his boss. For his efforts the guy was fired. Thereafter the fired employee sued. Because the business was unionized the union argued that the employees bashing was “protected” within the meaning of the labor relations laws. The employee won and the company had to reinstate the fired employee.

Fast forward to today. Imagine an employee bashing his boss on FaceBook or some other social networking site. Imagine no more. The case has already happened and the guy got canned for doing the same thing.

Well, taking the conversation out of the union context for a moment. Before every new technology is allowed at work, policy should already be in place to regulate the employees conduct. If you don’t address it upfront, I am sure you will be force fed the failure not too far down the road.

Plan, anticipate and deal now. Issues of information control, proper use of company technology, location of company records, and now third party technology are the issues of the day. Deal now before you learn the hard way.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Heed the lessons

While some might question the journalistic legitimacy of Al Jazeera anyway, they are now “leaking” documents of the peace process between Israel and Palestinian Arabs. One could argue that they are engaged in partisan politics to undermine the Palestinian authority in much the same way that Wikileaks did when they disclosed that Arab governments worried about a nuclear Iran as much as the west. In any event, is information dumping now the way journalism will evolve or will real media outlets take the higher road to responsible journalism? But that’s not really what I wanted to tell you. What I wanted to remind you is that more information fits into smaller places making taking it that much easier. So when trying to protect your corporate secrets, better heed the lessons of leaks and dumps — manage information like it’s an asset and expect that others want your assets.

Destruction of Evidence

A nascent IT guy says to his colleague “Hey, these lawyers have their shorts in a bundle over this e-discovery thing. Besides I am not sure what destruction of evidence looks like.” The colleague giggles and says it’s like pornography, you will know when you see it” Are you sure, mutters nascent IT guy”.

Let me help

On February 9, the Wall Street Journal reported about ongoing insider trading scandal. According to the article one note stated “Just go into office…shred as much as u can”. The missive was sent by instant messaging. Well that would clearly be destruction of evidence if you had an obligation to preserve for a imminent or pending legal matter.

Then the article states “One of them allegedly ripped up his computer drives with pliers after the reading the Wall Street Journal report on the probe”. Ok, there is a imminent legal problem and that would be destruction or attempted destruction.

The fund manager who destroyed the computer later dumped the pieces in four separate garbage trucks around New York”… Does not look as it related to intent, now does it.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Internet records as potential evidence

As all sorts of internet records are reviewed as potential evidence in the government’s prosecution of Jared Loughner for his heinous assault in Arizona that killed 6 including a small child, a judge and seriously wounded a special Congresswoman and others, the other side is preparing to defend this obvious criminal (yeah, yeah I know, we are innocent until proven guilty). Also interesting is the lawyer he was appointed free of charge, to undermine the evidence and defend Loughner (we do have a great country indeed), is Judy Clark who also represented the Unibomber and Sept. 11 criminal, Moussaoui. I sure hope the evidence is strong and the trial swift.

Monday, January 31, 2011

You just can't keep it all forever.

The January 17, 2011, NY Times article entitled, “In New Military, Data Overload Can Be Deadly” makes a point I try to make almost every day to some business executive. More information is not necessarily better and at some point the law of diminishing returns applies. If you have so much information, finding the needed nugget or digesting the salient stuff from the crap is near impossible. Information needs to be born, be used and die at some point to make room for more important timely information. In essence information has a life cycle. Problem is many don’t actually believe that most information needs to die at some point. They cling to the misguided notions that storage is cheaper and search tools are more and more powerful. All true, but they both miss the real point. You can’t keep everything because there are all sorts of soft and hard costs that impact the bottom line of business well beyond storage costs per gigabyte. Also, search tools while more capable, are not the panacea because they can’t traverse complex systems and hundreds of file types without challenge no matter what anyone tells you. A soldier is manning a drone in Afghanistan from his cubicle in Arizona. Some innocent citizens die and now the military says that it is because of information overload. SO, keep what you need to and get rid of the crud. Bigger is not always better.

Friday, January 28, 2011

I had a dream . . .

I had a dream that I wanted to share with you to see if you could help me interpret it. I was a big and important electronic record and was given a archive home in a white fluffy thing floating in the sky. I was provided a home with other documents from all over the place which had no relationship to me or my parents but we lived next door to each other anyway. I am not sure why? I was given my home, which was pretty spartan, because I guess we paid very little for me to stay there. So I guess it’s not that weird my digs were not so special and I shouldn't complain. Anyway, at some point I was needed to be returned and fast because there was something important going on, in front was a guy with a black cloak with a mallet that he uses to make sure people are quiet. The thing was, no one was available to find me because that’s not what they do. So, I sat and sat and many people were very upset and I felt bad about that, but what could I do? I sat in my fluffy archive in the sky which wasn’t really in the sky after all, but rather in Europe somewhere, and I couldn't make it home even if they were so excited to see me. They told me later there was “private” information in me and the Europeans wanted to protect me from disclosure. So I sat and sat and never made it to that important place. I guess they call it a court.

What do you think it means?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

It is a record upon creation.

Often I’m asked about what records to keep based on how they may play in court. Records are neither good nor bad. They simply document what happened. Make decisions about what to retain based on business need for them and legal requirements that tell you to retain them. In a recent revelation, the Catholic church disclosed there was a 1997 letter from the Vatican to the Irish bishops advising them to refrain from reporting all cases of sexual abuse of children to the police. For the church the record, now evidence, is painful. For the families seeking to get compensation for the molestation of their children, the record is manna from heaven.

A records is determined to be a record at the time of creation. Don’t anticipate its use down the road. Retain or not based on business use and legal mandate,PERIOD.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Dialoginars are here!

Dialoginars are a great new way to learn about a variety of enterprise content management topics. The first of ten Dialoginars which feature Randy Kahn and IBM is now available on IBM’s website at In this Dialoginar you will learn how you can use information as an asset in your organization. Check back with us on a regular basis to see future Dialoginars that will feature a new topic each month.