Information isn’t just a collection of digitized data—it’s a real asset for your organization. And like other business assets, information needs to be managed. Proper information management helps organizations stay compliant, operate efficiently, and provide the right resources to their employees.
But how can organizations manage this information effectively?
It starts with the information lifecycle. Every piece of information in your organization has a point of creation and a point of disposal. Every leader and employee in your organization must know how to effectively usher a piece of information through this lifecycle process. Understand the six phases of the informational lifecycle to align your business practices with proper information management practices.
The 6 Phases Of The Information Lifecycle
In our industry, “capture” is the data’s entry into your digital world. Now, many people assume “capture” automatically means “document scanning,” but the real world is more complex than that. Scanning certainly does play a part in the capture process, but information doesn’t just enter your organization via paper.
You can also capture data through:
- Electronic form submissions
- Your website or mobile app
- Website downloads
- Mobile phone camera
Your organization is likely collecting some form of digital information, too. Don’t think your point of entry will always be paper; digital methods are important, but often overlooked, data sources. Make sure your information lifecycle management practices address all informational entry points.
2. Collaboration & Interaction
Information is typically used close to its point of origin. For example, if you receive a sales order, you acknowledge, fulfill, and invoice it in a relatively short period of time, and usually with sales-adjacent groups. In your organization, that might look like:
- The sales team reviews the order
- The credit team assigns an invoice
- The warehous team prepares the order for the customer
- Sales communicates back to the customer about the invoice or the order
- Your warehouse team updates inventory requirements as needed
A lot of collaboration happens as a result of one piece of information (the sale, in this example).
This is the most active stage of the information lifecycle. It’s the point when your team is using the information to do their jobs. But that also means you, as a business leader, have to ensure the data and systems are in place to give your teams what they need. You want them to be able to access the most current information so they can take the correct next steps.
Make sure you have workflow, RPA, AI, and other tools in place to help you manage your employees and the data they need.
3. Version Control
Change happens, especially as a piece of information flows throughout your organization. When change happens, that means you need to note each change and version.
For example, let’s say a customer places an order for 1,000 units. But only 500 units are available. That means you need to either:
- Change order
- Makes special concessions to the customer
In all likelihood, you’ll exchange several emails with your customer about the situation. That means the information in your system will evolve as you negotiate the order. You’ll need to update the data to approve just 500 units at a time. It may also require amending the customer’s credit file or contract.
The third stage of information lifecycle management is about tracking every change to your data. This way, everyone in your organization stays on the same page about a particular customer or order.
4. Retention & Storage
After you’ve collected, collaborated, and tracked version changes on a piece of information, you aren’t done yet. That data still has value. Your team needs to access historical data not just for reference purposes, but for review, research, analysis, and even compliance.
Let’s say you want to review all orders from a particular client from last year. This is critical to updating their credit limit, but you need historical data to do so. Or if you need to pull all client contracts from a particular calendar year and update them, you can easily do so with the right storage process.
In the fourth stage of information lifecycle management, your team agrees on a retention period and storage method for each piece of data. For example, tax-related information could be stored for at least 7 years, and stored in a certain file folder, using an organizational hierarchy for easy retrieval. Choose a retention and storage process that works for your team.
5. Legal Holds
The fifth stage of information lifecycle management is the least pleasant, but it’s necessary for protecting your organization’s interests. As your business grows, you may face court orders or other legal issues that require strong information lifecycle management practices.
While no one enjoys receiving a court order, with proper information management, you can quickly and easily pull the proper documents to satisfy the court. Don’t let this process add undue strain onto your team; by retaining, organizing, and storing your data correctly, you can speed up the process.
If a court orders you to do so, you need to have processes in place to protect information from a destruction schedule. You don’t want to return to the court empty-handed! For some businesses, this turns into an expensive, time-consuming process with the legal team—at a premium price.
Fortunately, with the right systems in place, you can easily provide evidence of your compliance with the court order.
6. Disposition Or Archiving
The sixth and final stage of information lifecycle management is disposition or archiving. This is the point at which your information starts to lose its value. In fact, at a certain point, it can be a liability for you to keep this outdated information in your systems.
Once data has:
- Fulfilled its purpose
- Met reetention standards
- Met compliance stadards
… you have to decide what to do with it. Should you destroy the information and remove it from the organization altogether? Or should it move to a long-term archiving system?
We can’t say what the right decision is for your business. Review with your attorney, along with your corporate policy, to choose the correct next step.
When in doubt, you can set up a system to track retention schedules and send notifications about upcoming destruction schedules. The system will often generate a certificate of destruction, which can help you stay compliant with legal standards.
The bottom line
Treat information as you would any other business asset. Don’t let a massive swath of data overwhelm your team. Understand the six phases of the information lifecycle to create a process that works for your organization. Stay compliant, streamline business operations, and boost employee productivity with proper information lifecycle management.
We've prepared a helpful PDF outlining the most important key points. Download it by clicking the button below.