It may be concern over e-discovery risk that is driving many enterprises to revisit their information discovery strategies. However, the good news is that the benefits of improved information discovery reach far beyond the corporate counsel’s office.
Logan says, “The argument that good information discovery practices could lower the cost of storage didn’t do the trick. But e-discovery has captured executive level attention, and that helps information management overall. It’s a driver for clients to look at their overall records management processes.” She points out that even companies that don’t feel they have an e-discovery problem should consider that their competitors
do have strong incentives for good information management, which can lead to an edge in the marketplace.
Storage optimization may not have won the hearts and minds of executives in the past, but it’s an undeniable outcome of improved information discovery. Over time, enterprises can house a staggering amount of duplicate information: early drafts, multiple copies, obsolete SharePoint team sites. Information discovery tools can enable easier identification and removal of those unnecessary copies, adding up to significant storage savings. Charlotte Yarkoni, CEO of Xeround, which provides database virtualization software, says that particularly in times of economic turmoil, “Cost is king. Storage as a function has matured; customers want to make the data center a utility, not a constraint.”
She points out that customer data, such as customer care, billing, etc., is a classic example of information that may be stored in multiple silos within an organization. She says, “The key is to solve a tactical problem of how to expose and unify that data, and to share it and cross-pollinate it between business units or even with partner companies.” Carpenter agrees, saying, “Customers are saying, ‘Don’t tell me to buy more storage. Help me extend the value of what we’ve already invested.’”
Beyond addressing legal issues and cutting storage costs, there’s a third potential benefit of improved information discovery processes: improved business process efficiency. Arun Agarwal, senior manager of platform marketing and emerging solutions at Endeca Technologies, whose information access platform helps people explore, analyze, and understand information, believes that information discovery’s role in boosting productivity is only going to get more urgent as companies confront the current tough economic climate. “If you have a layoff, there’s a good chance that your enterprise information will walk out of the door if it’s only contained in people’s heads,” Agarwal cautions. He believes that an information discovery solution that covers both structured and unstructured data, and takes into account user roles, can play a key part in keeping enterprise information in-house and findable.
Agarwal also points out that employees already have an expectation for the performance of discovery tools based on their consumer experience. “Doing discovery from your home computer is actually easier than doing it at work, because data at work is siloed. It exists in different places and tends to be structured and transactional. When you go to a media website or retail site, a sidebar shows you articles related to your search term. That shouldn’t just be an experience for an external customer. Internal users would benefit from related data too.” Agarwal provides the example of a sales rep who searches for a particular product marketing document; the rep could also be shown details of a related sales promotion and a structured data report showing historical cross-selling matches for the product in question.