image-kaizenMost businesses are experiencing an explosion of data growth and managing all the information has become a real challenge. While some sort of document management system may ultimately become the norm, until then perhaps kaizen or small good changes can help.

I believe that the Pareto principle (aka the 80/20 rule) definitely applies to data—only 20% of an organization’s data is actively needed and valuable. The remaining 80% of the data or information is just “legacy” stuff that no one knows what it is or what to do with it. The “5S” workplace organization method may be able to help. The five “S’s” come from the Japanese words: seiri, selton, selso, seiketsu, and shitsuke. Translated into English, these words mean: sort, straighten, shine, standardize, and sustain.

If applied to data management, the first step would be to sort your data. We often see clients with large shared network drives where they literally “dump” all kinds of information without any thought to sorting the data. If an organization were to sort this data into meaningful filing structures it would allow for the removal of unnecessary data and ultimately make work easier. Some ideas on how to organize your data include filing by year, by project, or other similar standard. Alternatively, many organize data by client, vendors or other similar structure. The problem with the latter approach is that all new data is mixed together with old data and it becomes more difficult to identify what is actually active. Whenever possible, consider using a filing structure that has a finite time span so that you can easily archive older data. Here’s where the savings come in.

Let’s say for example that you have 100 MB of client data, and per the 80/20 rule, only 20 MB of this data is active, changing and ultimately valuable. If it’s all mixed together with the remaining 80% of the data that is really just historical data, your business must back all of the data up every day to ensure that nothing gets lost. I would propose creating a separate archival storage location that is online and available to your team but set to “Read Only”, meaning they can reference the information and read it as much as they like. If they need to make changes to the information or file, then at that point it gets saved to the active data storage area. Data should be moved to the archive storage area on a schedule that makes sense for your organization. We find most prefer annually or perhaps quarterly if something more frequent is required. How does this save you? By segregating your data using the 5S method, you can backup locally and offsite the active, critical data more efficiently and cost effectively. The remaining 80% of your data that is for reference and archived only needs to be backed up whenever the archive is updated—annually or quarterly. And quite often, the method we would recommend for backing up this data is less expensive.

This particularly works great if your team understands the standards established and all work together to sustain the standard. By following the 5S methodology and practicing kaizen (good changes) in your data management, you can save BIG. Need help getting started? Give IT Radix a call. Our staff is here to help your business get on the road to savings.

 First published in our November 2014 IT Radix Resource newsletter