By 2015 the total amount of data in the world will increase to 7.9 zettabytes, according to IDC. As Hong Kong’s business community continues to grow, with a record high of 174,031 new companies registered in the SAR last year, local enterprises are a key driver of this data-driven wave.
Individual companies are now producing several terabytes of electronic information each year, with email and mobile data being prime culprits.
The net result is that corporations in Hong Kong are seriously struggling to store, understand, and manage their information. As key Hong Kong industries including financial services, property, and pharmaceuticals become increasingly regulated, data not only needs to be properly stored and easily accessible, but it also needs to meet stringent records management and discovery obligations.
For example, the 2012 amendment to the Hong Kong Personal Data Privacy Ordinance drastically increased penalties for unauthorised disclosure of personal data. Malicious disclosure of personal data without consent carries a maximum penalty of up to HK$1 million and imprisonment for up to five years.
It’s clearly time to get a firm grip on your data. By doing so, Hong Kong businesses are in a better position to meet legal requirements, and can also benefit from reduced storage costs and increased efficiency.
There are four critical steps to data management best practice which we’ll explore in a two-part series.
1. START WITH POLICY
As a first step to taming the data explosion, corporates need to apply data management policies. Focusing an organisation’s attention on managing unstructured data can be a daunting task, but putting a governance structure around the problem allows organisations to develop a process-based, technology-enabled, and targeted approach to keeping what it needs, and disposing of the rest.
Existing policies and processes are the best place to start as they can guide the strategic direction of a data management project. A company’s approach will vary based on its organisational priorities, structure, and unique data-management problem areas.
For example, research firm IDC has forecast that total spending on cloud services in Hong Kong will reach US$685 million (HK$5.31 billion) by 2017; as such many enterprises are in the process of identifying masses of data which need to be migrated to the cloud. Organisations can avoid completely reinventing the wheel by seeking out best-practice models to serve as a frame of reference.
2. TAME WITH TECHNOLOGY
However, policies on their own won’t bring into line all your unstructured data. It’s certainly important to know what information you own and understand its value to the organisation, but there’s typically too much information to examine it piece by piece and make an individual determination.
Enterprises that have successfully tamed their data have typically enforced policy-backed goals with a documented process and technology.
“Crawling” technology can assist legal or IT teams in locating information and documenting how the data and repositories are organised. Data visualisation tools can provide an idea of the type of content you have.
Technology-assisted review tools can be trained to “learn” and “assess” whether documents are of value or not.
In addition to helping inform governance decisions, these tools can apply compliance functions to unstructured information.
Whether you’re dealing with personally identifiable information, protected health information, or data that’s subject to cross-border scrutiny if being shared with China or other markets in the region, characterisation and predictive coding tools can help determine whether certain data needs special attention.
Find out about the final two critical steps to taming the data explosion in the second part of this two-column series.
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Hongkong Business. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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Celeste Kemper is the Director of Document Review Services Asia for Epiq Systems. Celeste manages multilingual teams of lawyers and paralegals for document and audio review projects in Hong Kong, and assists law firm and corporate clients in the creation and implementation of review protocols, training materials and best practices. Prior to Epiq Systems, she was an Assistant Attorney General at the Texas Attorney General’s office where she was responsible for investigating and prosecuting health care fraud cases.