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Manage Data Through its Lifecycle

There are three important events in the lifecycle of a piece of data; creation, use and deletion. At all other times the data only represents risk.

Many organizations apply ILM processes to structured data and paper records only; the open nature of unstructured file services leading to an intimidating level of dynamism in their content.

Consistent and logical frameworks can be applied to unstructured data. Proactive data management by the users and organizational units who are creating and using the data is key. By adapting the working practices of business users to include information lifecyle management processes – such as the categorization of files or the immediate deletion of files when they become redundant – the organization is able to map ILM practices into the unstructured data footprint.

Understanding where in its lifecycle a piece of data is allows for improved compliance, protection and value realization.

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Workflows that are fully integrated into organizational working practices allow for data to be efficiently managed at a granular level by relevant stakeholders, rather than reactively managed by a separate organizational function which is distanced from the content and purpose of the data.

Business User

A colleague or subordinate transferring out of their current position does not equate to all of their data reaching the end of its life cycle. Relevant orphaned data can be re-incorporated into on-going activities – it’s value realized rather than neglected.

IT Management

A clear understanding of the lifecycle stages that organizational data passes through, and the volumes of data currently in each stage, allows for more efficient file service design.


Data value is time sensitive. The ability to more accurately understand where in it’s lifecycle a file is allows for it’s value to be better exposed.

Data Compliance

Adapting the business culture to promote pro-active management of data throughout its lifecycle improves data compliance.

Data Governance

Users who understand and can efficiently take responsibility for data management are able to participate in guaranteeing data quality.
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Looking to include unstructured data in ILM practices?

Unstructured data, as one of many information repositories within the organization, is traditionally the most difficult to incorporate into ILM (Information Lifecycle Management) strategies.

The principles of ILM call for information to be prioritized based on its value, for important information to be carefully preserved, and for information to be discarded when it is no longer relevant – with compulsory deletion now a legal requirement. The difficulty in applying these principles to unstructured data lies in the granularity of the decisions that need to be made, often requiring each file to be considered individually.

Organizations are looking to ILM as a unified approach to critical data management needs, most prominently data governance, data compliance and data protection. By managing unstructured data through its life-cycle the organization is able to improve data value realization, achieve regulatory compliance, and close data loss vulnerabilities.

Northern’s Solution

Using a combination of programmatic and owner-driven data management, organizations are now able to map their ILM practices into their unstructured data footprints.

Northern’s Data Stewardship Tracking solution area enables the establishment of a system of data responsibility; designating relevant individuals within the organization as Data Stewards. These Data Stewards are given responsibility for the files created within their team, department or project. Through the Distributed Data Management solution area, these individuals are then provided with access to a self-service portal that offers dashboards designed to allow them to fulfill specific ILM tasks.

The benefits

For every organization, unstructured data represents both a source of value and significant risk. By incorporating unstructured data into ILM practices organizations are able to better realize latent value and mitigate hidden compliance or data loss vulnerabilities.
  • Compulsory deletion of data after retention periods have expired is a legal obligation. Incorporating unstructured data into existing ILM practices is a sound approach to ensuring legally compliant data retention practices.
  • By involving users close to the data, those who have the best knowledge of the information type and value, organizations are able to resolve the challenges of needing to make granular decisions when mapping ILM strategies to unstructured data.
  • Unstructured data can be extremely transient with files quickly created, used and then forgotten. File importance can also be extremely long-lasting, as in the case of engineering drawings, contracts or medical records. Proactive management of this data throughout its lifecycle is critical if data footprints are not to become unusable and if legal non-compliance is to be avoided.

Struggling to make the most of the files your team members leave behind?

When a colleague or subordinate leaves your team knowledge about the files they created and used leaves with them. Orphaned files are most often ignored and allowed to accumulate as employees come and go. This strategy leads to cluttering of shared storage, to valuable data being lost and to duplication of effort.

Having users review and organize their files before transitioning out of your team or department ensures that value is protected; that the wider team can easily incorporate work done in future efforts. Additionally, being able to review the files created and used by former colleagues or subordinates, after they depart, can give valuable insight and enable further latent value to be identified.

Northern’s Solution

User off-boarding is an important milestone in the lifecycle of information created by that user. Some files should be deleted, some relocated and ownership should be transferred for files that are to be kept.

Northern’s Distributed Data Management solution area allows both the user themselves, prior to exit, and/or the user’s manager or relevant Data Steward to review and act on the files belonging to the exiting user. Working with summaries and filtered file lists, in a self-service portal, these data management activities are efficiently and accurately carried out.

The benefits

User-generated data represents the intellectual property, strategies, research and ideas that drive the development of the organization. Implementing a workflow that ensures the value of a user’s files is not lost when the user transitions out of a team or department has significant benefits:
  • Remaining group members are not forced to re-create documents, spreadsheets or presentations that are hidden or lost in a cluttered file share or suspended home share.
  • Team agility is improved when important files are correctly located and appropriately named; they can be quickly identified and used in relevant on-going activities.
  • Knowledge of file importance can degrade very quickly after the file owner leaves the group. Working with this data set immediately prior to, or just after, the user transitions out enables granular decisions to made very easily. The longer the task is left, the greater the risk that sensitive and restricted data is allowed to accumulate, unnoticed.
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