George Carlin on Information Management


During a recent company meeting our CEO highlighted four aspects of RIM programs we could help clients improve. One of those was Keep less stuff, which means a few things:

  • Technology to efficiently apply retention to physical and electronic records
  • Transparency around seeing what is eligible for disposal
  • Information Governance consulting to support defensible disposition

While it was clear what our CEO meant when he said Keep less stuff, it reminded me of one of the late George Carlin’s famous skits where he talked about “Stuff”. George said “the meaning of life was trying to find a place for your stuff”. If you are in IT or records and information management it might not be the meaning of life, but where and how you store your “stuff” is likely one of your top priorities. IT provides the storage and infrastructure (place) for data, electronic “stuff”. Records and information management is usually tasked with finding a home for physical “stuff”, and along with legal decides what “stuff” to keep and for how long. IT should work with information management so collecting and finding electronic “stuff” is efficient. Information management and legal need to collaborate with IT about “stuff” that can be disposed of because it is no longer needed. IT, information management and legal working together makes sense but all too often this does not happen and organizations end up with more “stuff” than they can manage and process. This rapidly growing big collection of electronic “stuff” is Big Data.

In George Carlin’s skit he broke “stuff” into two categories; “good stuff and the crap you’re saving”. Good “stuff” is information needed to run a business or that must be maintained for regulatory or policy reasons. “Crap” is information that is not business related, unknown/orphaned, transitory or duplicates. Retention schedules indicate how long we keep the good “stuff”, but don’t usually address the “crap”. A CGOC 2012 study indicated as much as 69% of “stuff” being stored has no business value and can be purged.  A Symantec survey indicated 42% of “stuff” is duplicate.  These statistics indicate there is a lot of “crap” that organizations could and should purge.

George also commented how “a whole industry based on keeping an eye on your stuff” has been created because we keep getting more “stuff”. He also talked about how we keep “stuff” in many places. So how many different places does a typical organization store “stuff”; physical records onsite and offsite, electronic records in shared drives, email, ECM solutions and cloud file sharing apps?  As the number of places we store “stuff” increases so does the complexity of managing all this “stuff”. Are you applying a retention schedule to every area you are storing “stuff”. Have you deployed technology that gives you visibility into collections of physical and electronic “stuff”, onsite or offsite?  What about legal hold? How is that being addressed when “stuff” is in so many places? “A whole industry based on keeping an eye on your stuff”, if George only knew. On-premise and cloud ECM/EDRMS/DMS solutions, SharePoint, Office 365 and a rapidly growing number of file sharing apps like Dropbox.

I believe George Carlin originally performed his “Stuff” skit in the mid 80’s and it obviously had nothing to do with records and information management. However, George had an interesting view on “stuff” and records and information is certainly important “stuff”. So let’s keep George in mind as we look at managing information;

  • Collaboration between IT, information management and legal should be part of deciding where and how long we’ll keep “stuff”.
  • Stop saving the “crap” it’s driving up costs and increasing risk
  • Organizations must think strategically about all the various places they’ll store “stuff” and how they’ll manage and access it.  Find the right partner with technology to help you manage and keep an eye on your “stuff”.

What do you think?

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