Principle #6: Information has a lifecycle

Information has a lifecycle

This is the sixth blog of a series regarding Information Management principles: Information has a lifecycle. This principle is closely related to principle #5 – information has a status. This principle is aimed at ensuring information reaches a level of maturity that is useful and sensible for an organization. And when information is not useful any more, it is archived, destroyed or replaced with appropriate information.

The amount of information being created is increasing rapidly resulting in growing management costs and reducing the efficiency of finding information. Keeping information for the sake of keeping it is not a good thing, despite storage becoming cheaper. Unfortunately obsolete information itself has very no reuse / low recycling value except for the energy that it takes to keep it around. Prevention and minimisation should be the focus to reduce information waste.

Can you honestly say that all e-mail you saved in your personal archive 10 years ago is useful to you? How often do you find information that should have been removed a long time ago? What is the use to an organization if information created is never shared with others?

You have the following options to address this challenge:

  1. Apply a retention policy for the information when it is created or reaches a certain status (see principle #5). Ideally this is done automatically without the user needing to care about it. This works well for information where there are clear rules regarding the usefulness for example invoices typically can be destroyed after a number of years or documents created during a project that was finished;
  2. Analyse the usage of information and take action. Is information actually being used? For example how often was a document viewed in the past year, how often does the information show up in search results, when was it last accessed. This works best for information where there are no clear rules with respect to retention, like knowledge, social network messages, discussions, questions;
  3. Periodic reviews by information owners (see principle #1) to ensure that the information they are responsible for is relevant and accurate. The information should take action if needed.  Option 1 and 2 should support the information owner in doing this task and reduce the effort required significantly;
  4. Ensure that co-workers are not hoarding information or keep ‘polishing’ a document that can be useful to others. Regularly reward persons that share useful information with others, encourage people to provide feedback regarding content that is shared and discuss improvements with persons that do not share information.

All these options require recognition that the management of information is actual useful work and provide owners with the budget to execute these tasks. Furthermore organisations need to put  processes and systems in place that can effectively support the information lifecycle. This means for example systems should have among others analytics, reporting, retention and information lifecycle management functionality.