Today, the information management community is celebrating Global Information Governance Day, an annual day-long event that occurs on the third Thursday in February to raise awareness of information governance (IG). In addition to giving your records manager a pat on the back, let’s take a look at the current state of affairs for IG and its future.

In recent years, organizations both big and small have recognized that IG has become a business-critical need. Many have started to adopt IG strategies that address the complex records and information management environment, which often spans a myriad of countries, regulations, security requirements, and lots of data.

For companies navigating these and other complications, implementing IG remains challenging, and there is still much work to be done to build best practices. Luckily, technology is emerging to simplify and automate IG demands.

This shift to technology is a natural one, given the IT department’s emerging role in IG and its management strategy. Records managers and legal departments have long understood the value of IG, based on decades of applying governance to paper documents. But we now operate in a world run by digital data. Organizations are quickly accumulating massive amounts of complex data from web, mobile and Internet of Things (IoT) applications, making it difficult to properly govern information and minimize risk using traditional methods and technologies that aren’t able to address this mounting challenge.

To help put it into perspective, in a recent EMC-sponsored IDC study, the analyst firm estimated that we are doubling the size of our data every two years and by 2020 the digital universe will contain nearly as many digital bits as there are stars in the universe – 44 trillion gigabytes. Cheap and easy aren’t going to cut it for the IG challenge of these kinds of magnitudes.

In fact, that quick-fix approach has the potential to do more harm than good. Outdated and irrelevant documents take up space and make important documents much harder to find, creating inefficiencies within an organization. Additionally, the more data stored, the greater the potential for damage from an eventual breach.

With this data deluge, it’s important for organizations to get IT on board with IG by participating in the implementation of an IG plan. Central to that plan may be automation technology.

Currently, IG relies heavily on employees for the most crucial tasks, making it harder for them to focus on their jobs and more difficult to ensure accuracy and compliance. IG needs automation. There are new technologies that can automate key governance activities, enabling organizations to better protect and manage information in all its forms – paper and digital.

Here are four governance activities that are difficult to overcome but can be addressed with an automated solution, with the help of IT:

An Abundance of Unstructured Data

Organizations need a uniform approach to storing information. The sheer volume of data combined with content abandonment issues inflates risk as companies find they retain information that should have been disposed.

Inefficient Classification

Manual classification is often less than 10 percent effective because business users either don’t take the time to apply classification schemes or do it incorrectly. Instead, using the “Big Bucket” approach and assigning individuals metadata associated with their department eliminates the inefficiency of a manual process. Because digital data is created quickly, shared widely, stored chaotically and classified sporadically, automated systems enable organizations to more efficiently apply metadata to classify all documents.

Unclear Retention and Destruction Schedules

Enforcing retention schedules uniformly across digital data and physical records has become almost impossible using traditional approaches, which is why organizations are using automation to simplify compliance. Due to the inability to defensibly implement retention policies, the default is to keep information indefinitely. However, even simple techniques, like automating reminders and status updates about the eligibility of records for destruction, can make a difference.

Decentralized Governance Applications

When retention schedules are separate from the data to which they apply, there is decreased efficiency in applying schedules and the potential for increased mistakes on updating schedules. When working with decentralized applications, like a shared drive, a user is responsible for migrating retention schedules on to data. An automated governance tool that connects to all repositories can apply a central policy to all documents and manage in place, rather than migrating data, and creates a streamlined process.

IG will only become more significant as data continues to expand. The information management landscape has been shifting toward the realization that an automated IG environment would allow organizations to simplify and govern all this data. The sooner organizations can get their IT departments to embrace IG, the better.

(About the author: Rob Hamilton is the global vice president of information governance and records at Recall)