These days, people are accustomed to easily finding the information they need. They simply type keywords into a search engine and access material from any corner of the digital universe. The internet has revolutionized information sharing and collaboration.
Unfortunately, today’s enterprise systems have not kept pace.
Imagine a world without the internet, without web pages tagged and identifiable by keywords or search terms, without Google and other search engines. Too often, that is what corporate information networks look like, with important corporate data siloed within different business applications and network folders, all but inaccessible to other workers who could benefit from it
The proliferation of this kind of information, known as dark data, is a growing problem for organizations in every industry.
The Scope of the Problem
Dark data is any corporate information that is unused, inactive or, as Gartner describes it, “information assets that organizations collect, process, and store in the course of their regular business activity, but generally fail to use for other purposes.” It is estimated that as much as 90 percent of data that an organization produces never get used again. That is all dark data.
Of course, not all dark data should be illuminated. Some of it should remain dark – saved, but inactive –for historical purposes, such as past employee or customer information or corporate strategic data. Dark data is also appropriate for evidence of compliance and should include material such as training records or audit logs.
But most data should not be dark. It should be active. When employees can’t quickly find the information they need, they often re-create data, which represents a considerable waste of resources. Duplication and re-creation also multiply the incremental volumes of any data that subsequently goes dark. When data that is accessed frequently or occasionally “goes dark” unintentionally, it is more than an inconvenience to an employee. It also can be a serious problem for the business.
For example, if a customer calls for help, support engineers need the full history of the customer’s interactions at their fingertips to provide responsive, quality service. Requiring them to search through multiple systems or repositories to compile data wastes their time and potentially tries the customer’s patience.
The Impact of Dark Data on Businesses
Beyond untapped resources and wasteful repeat efforts, dark data also represents other risks to business, from problems created by its volume to security and operational implications.
The issue with volume is the need to search through it for relevant, active data. Employees have to do so regularly, whether through their own file structures or a network structure. But the logic of a network structure is not always clear to employees, who may organize hierarchies of information differently. To be sure that they have what they need, employees tend to keep everything, or make copies of everything, and put it where they can find it. This can lead to “content chaos” and even more time spent organizing, in addition to searching.