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No-one can deny that the availability and use of data in enterprises is at an all-time high. The growth of the enterprise apps stack alone is expanding the number of systems accessing, using and producing new data every day. IDC now predicts that by 2025, there will be a staggering 175 zettabytes of data in the world. Crown Records Management’s recent research with UK CIOs showed how data has become more important over the last couple of years. It is now considered a top corporate asset, beaten only by customers.

What’s triggering data growth?

Several converging factors are creating a perfect storm for data growth. These are placing pressure on organisations to do a better job of managing their already massive and growing data estates:

  1. Digital transformation – With most businesses moving from physical to digital operations, they are rapidly accruing data, rather than paper. In Crown’s research, 94% were either planning, or in the process of, digital transformation. Furthermore, all respondents said good data management practice underpinned successful digitalisation.
  2. Personalisation and competitiveness – Increasing competition and consumer demand for personalisation are also making organisations data-hungry. Enterprises need to know a great deal more about each customer than they did traditionally. For example, research by Salesforcefound that 57% of consumers will happily share personal data in exchange for personalised offers or discounts.
  3. Unstructured data – The way we live and work creates a continual data trail. However, rather than neat rows of information in databases, much of this is difficult-to-access unstructured data. Think about social media content, video conference recordings, scanned documents and PDFs. In Crown’s research 91% of CIOs said unstructured data was a problem for them, and, as it makes up almost 60% of all corporate data, it can’t be ignored.
  4. Increased regulation – There’s also upward pressure on organisations to keep information safe and secure, as well as tighter restrictions on what data can be retained. Despite high profile fines for GDPR breaches, in Crown’s survey, only 23% rated GDPR capabilities as very good.

With all these important data priorities, why are so many organisations struggling to manage this crucial asset? Only 21% in our survey said their relationship with their data was ‘very good., whilst many couldn’t claim a clear view of their data assets.

To keep pace with today’s data demands, we advise organisations to audit their data lifecycle. This helps to uncover where the weaknesses may lie, and the improvements needed. Crown’s research points to several clues at different stages of the data lifecycle.

Data birth

Data birth is when data is either created or acquired by the business. In Crown’s research, 28% said their data creation processes needed attention. 35% said their data acquisition methods could be improved too.

Unstructured data seems a particularly prevalent data creation issue. Nine out of 10 surveyed said the production of large volumes of unstructured data was impacting their productivity. Other major data creation concerns were the prolific creation of emails, social media content and handwritten documents. On the handling and acquisition front, 86% found the processing of data incoming from third parties such as suppliers and customers challenging.

Living data

Living data is the information ‘in process’, working or being used across many different business operations. Obviously, effective management of this data is key, but also highly complex due to the many systems and processes it crosses.

46% of organisations said they needed to improve storage of their living data. The issue was exacerbated by the sheer variety of places data is held. 79% also said that access to archived records was challenging – showing the importance of unlocking information held in paper documents. Effective storage of unstructured data was also considered a top three risk.

Data retrieval required attention in 44% of organisations. On top of this, 83% said document scanning, to access data locked in unstructured formats, wasn’t up to scratch. A similar number were struggling with their ability to index information in case it was needed for audit or compliance purposes.

Possibly the biggest living data challenge, however, was security and compliance. Data protection required attention in 43% of organisations and security was the most common risk associated with unstructured data, affecting 51%. Managing personally identifiable data (PID) in line with GDPR regulations was also a challenge. This is partly due to PID being stored across a wide variety of sources and systems. Consequently, less than a quarter of respondents felt they had a strong GDPR capability in place.

Data death

Given the significant data volumes being generated and acquired by organisations, the ability to remove data from the enterprise is also critical. There are two focus areas – archiving and deletion. Both are, in many ways, just as important as living data itself. Otherwise, they can lead to risky noncompliance and unnecessary storage costs.

31% of organisations said they needed to improve data archiving, while 37% wanted to get better at deleting unrequired information. However, considering over 40% of data held by organisations is unused, there seems to be a long way to go.

Data is a critical asset of any business. It is also a living entity and must be treated with due care. Healthy data management requires a full and strategic approach to the entire data lifecycle. Organisations that proactively manage their data estates will be rewarded through improved business insight and performance, as well as reduced risk.

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