Is there anything better than the feeling of having a clean, uncluttered garage? When you’ve sold, given away or thrown away the boxes of things you never use, you get to see all the space you have for the things that actually should be in your garage, like your vehicles, tools and lawn and garden equipment.
But if having a clean garage makes us so happy, why don’t we clean it more often? It’s probably because the task is time-consuming, it’s a lot of hard work and sometimes the clutter isn’t yours but rather the stuff your family members keep around, requiring their help and input.
Cleaning up your business’s data is a lot like cleaning your garage. You’ve likely been putting it off for a while now. But do you really need all that paper or those emails and files on your computer or network? Will anyone in your company find them useful?
You Don’t Need All That Data
There are three main business reasons why keeping all of your data is ill-advised:
- Most of the data lacks value (i.e., how much of your old data do you actually reference and use?)
- Storing data that’s not being used costs money and time
- Keeping data is a security risk
Yes, there is a risk to keeping all of your data. For example, if you have information on a client from over five years ago, is the place you’re storing it appropriate? Are you taking the necessary security measures to minimize the risk of it being exposed in a cyber incident? Every year, data breaches cost companies millions of dollars in fines and lawsuits, not to mention reputational damage.
With the technology available today, it’s a no-brainer to get rid of paper data and better organize or purge electronic data. This process doesn’t have to be as daunting as the prospect of cleaning out your garage! Below are three, strong data-cleaning strategies to help your business get organized.
1. Use the 5S Methodology
To better organize your personal work computer, you can utilize the 5S methodology. This involves sorting your data (including getting rid of what you don’t use or need), setting the data in order (so that it’s easier to find), shining it up (i.e., cleaning it on a regular basis), standardizing your processes to help you keep up with the first three S’s and sustaining the processes. Continually using the 5S methodology helps ensure your data remains organized, functional and valuable.
2. Take a Data Inventory and Put Content Management Rules in Place
To organize your business’s data, it helps to take a data inventory and classify what you use and when you last used it. This is definitely a process, but it leads to your ability to take the next step and establish automation to maintain clean data.
You can put content management rules into place that automate purging and classifying data on a regular basis. For example, during your inventory process, you can classify what types of data should be kept for seven years versus six months. Data storage solutions such as cloud storage can then manage the purging process for you. It can look at new data, automatically tag it as a specific type of data and set it to be purged in the appropriate amount of time for that data type.
3. Implement Cloud Storage
Speaking of cloud storage, it’s an excellent strategy for organizing data and helping to limit the amount of unnecessary data your employees hold onto, for the reasons outlined above. But it also provides other benefits. Firstly, it empowers a more mobile workforce, and it improves responsiveness by allowing employees to exchange data no matter where they are or what device they’re using (e.g., desktop, tablet or smartphone).
Secondly, implementing cloud storage can improve your cybersecurity because it offers you the chance to review your data retention policies and procedures and update them to fit the always-changing cybersecurity landscape. Moreover, many cloud storage solutions have security and compliance measures baked into their offering to help prevent incidents such as security breaches, identify theft and data loss. Your business often can adjust these settings to customize your security environment.
Clean Data Is an Ongoing Process
Wipfli’s technology partner, Michael Pynch, recognizes that cleaning up data is an ongoing process for businesses. He says, “At Wipfli, we have not yet gone to a ‘clean desk’ policy that completely eliminates paper, but we have secured areas of our offices to address paper documents, and we have leveraged technology platforms to better organize our electronic data.” When it comes to cleaning up data and implementing the right processes, all businesses need to start somewhere — whether it’s with cleaning up computer files and emails or moving to a paperless system.
But regardless of how employees have justified holding onto data in the past, you should challenge yourself to think differently about what data is actually valuable to your business. Next, try our three strategies for cleaning up your data. Maybe then you can finally move onto your garage!
Are you overwhelmed with old data? Contact Wipfli to learn what data storage and organization solution is right for your business.