I have two reasons for referring you to an interesting pair of articles by IBM’s George Parapadakis on his personal blog For what it’s worth…. One is that they introduce an interesting parallel between growing data volumes and a medical condition affecting an ever-increasing number of people; the other is that it links to an article which I have recently written for IBM.
The first article Content Obesity – Part 1: Diagnosis kicks off with definitions of human obesity and content obesity which clearly identify the parallels – increased health problems for humans and increased legal and compliance risks for companies. The expression “business agility” invokes a pleasing parallel between those bloated people whom you see wobbling slowly down supermarket aisles and companies whose every action – defensive ones like compliance and eDiscovery and more positive activities aimed at business growth – is hampered by the sheer weight of data which they carry. It is important to emphasise lost benefits as well as increased risks, whether thinking of the lard mountain who has lost sight of his or her feet or the company which has lost its business intelligence in mounds of raw data.
George Parapadakis extends the medical parable well in his second article Content Obesity – Part 2: Treatment. Just as human obesity might be tackled by a combination of abstinence, treatments and positive steps, so content obesity might be reduced by reducing storage and retrieval costs and by curbing the information growth rate. Humans must distinguish between food which is good for them and that which adds nothing of value or is positively harmful; similarly, companies must distinguish between data worth keeping and the rest, and must be able to identify high-risk material.
The mere introduction of the parallel is helpful. The articles themselves are yet more so, offering ways to identify problems and some straightforward solutions.
The paper of mine to which George Parapadakis refers is called Information Governance in UK civil litigation – how to reduce legal risk and cost. Its primary focus, as its title implies, is on UK civil litigation, but it emphasises that prospective disclosure obligations in litigation are only one reason why a company needs to keep control of the data which it collects.