As staff battle to shed the Christmas flab, business leaders are also facing pressure to go on a diet. Mark Whitby, senior vice-president at US storage solutions company Seagate Technology, has urged bosses to tighten their corporate belts with a ‘Data Diet” to rid organisations of excessive baggage before the day, currently predicted for 2016, when experts believe global storage capacity will start to be outstripped by demand.
Whitby believes the much-vaunted “Big Data” doesn’t hold much value for business at the moment, since analytics is still in its infancy. On the contrary, he says businesses are holding far too much data and facing problems as the world uses up data storage and approaches a potential data capacity gap.
“Most companies’ hard drives are littered with non-essential data; everything from old email archives and attachments to personal staff photos and videos,” he says. “Managing this data flood is no easy task but it will pay dividends in the near future as storage becomes a more expensive, rationed resource.”
Big Data is a modern corporate obsession and Seagate wants it to develop further, rebranding itself at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas with a “living logo” that aims to showcase data as a living entity that powers human invention, culture and advances.
So how do chief executives and other organisational leaders ensure that their systems are not instead clogged with “dead data” that adds no value but clogs up their information capacity?
Should they have a “data amnesty” in which staff are encouraged to cleanse their computers of useless spreadsheets, photographs or data-heavy graphics?
Do bosses need to reduce the personal data limits of staff or introduce even more draconian methods of incentivising them to de-clutter their in-boxes and system files?
Whitby suggests the following five-step plan. And with tongue only slightly in cheek, I have given each a name hewn from conventional dietary wisdom.
Stop taking storage for granted. If storage is not already part of your planning for 2015 then it should be. Ensure your IT team is preparing to educate your workforce about the need for smarter thinking about what data is kept and why. Help them understand that this is not a draconian move to make their lives harder, but a business-critical issue that needs immediate attention.
Work with your chief information officer and IT team to agree a data policy that outlines what kind of data can and can’t be stored on hard drives and exactly what employees can and can’t save to the network. Such policies can be easily enforced with existing technology, both at the network and storage levels. Quotas can be set for each user, forcing them to think harder about what they really need to save.
The Mad DASH (Direct Action to Scan Hard-drives) Diet
Spring-clean your systems. Even the most routine of investigations inevitably reveals the scale of the problem for most businesses. Many tools are available for scanning hard-drives and graphically displaying their contents, making it easy to decide what you need and what can be safely discarded. Similarly, email management tools can help identify old and outdated attachments, enabling businesses to clear large volumes of disk space quickly.
Store This, Not That
De-duplicate. Most businesses keep multiple copies of documents, especially content-heavy files such as slide decks. Develop policies that prevent duplication of files, and that encourage centralised collaborative approaches rather than the fragmented models currently in place.
The No-Cookies Diet
Manage back-ups more effectively. Determine how many back-ups you really need, both for operational and regulatory purposes. Backing up data is essential and must be done carefully but it must also be done sensibly; there’s no point in keeping old data for the sake of it. Make sure that you keep the data that you need to restore your business in the event of a serious problem, meet legal requirements and no more.
Then again, business leaders tire of being pilloried, whether about polluting the world with their business travel or not doing enough to promote workplace equality.
As well as ensuring that their companies have the right growth strategies and are making good sales and profits, they’re now expected to be on top of sustainability, corporate social responsibility, supply chain management, and transforming their customer engagement with social media strategies.
The problem is that rather than empowering their staff, initiatives to solve such problems can end up making workers feel even more overburdened, isolated and unappreciated.
Three years ago, I visited Guy Laurence, then the chief executive of the UK business of British mobile phones group Vodafone, and was astonished by the fire and passion he demonstrated for the minutiae of his workers’ everyday office lives.
“I don’t believe in offices,” Laurence stormed. “They’re a thing of the past. Offices produce things like a conventional company….A lot of the Western way of working is broken and old-fashioned. It’s the tyranny of the office.”
Conventional offices, he argued are about command and control management, political wrangling, clocking in, diaries full of formal meetings and staff performance judged on attendance. At Vodafone UK’s campus in Newbury, Berkshire, in contrast, Laurence imported the culture he had built as boss of the company’s Dutch operations.
All executives offices were torn down and the 3,500 staff were all told to constantly “hot desk” with no permanent desks or landline telephones extension numbers of their own. Instead, they were each allotted a single filing cabinet drawer and told to obey a clean desk policy that meant that anything left on desks overnight gets incinerated, even if it was a treasured picture of a wedding or new baby.
Laurence also introduced £50 fines for secretaries caught reserving meeting rooms for the executives they served, just in case they were needed for gatherings that ended up not taking place. In addition, all but a single printer were removed from every floor in the building, with Laurence receiving a monthly list of the company’s top 25 .paper users.
“It’s not a good idea to be on that list twice in a year,” he said. “There are very few rules but they’re enforced 100pc….When you remove the barriers of offices, meetings and all the rest of it, people can spend more time doing what they’re supposed to do. As a consequence, people start to perform better.”
Vodafone UK’s performance did indeed improve, so much so that Laurence was poached two years later to become chief executive of Canada’s Rogers Communications.
I have no idea whether he has introduced similar office strictures there. Let’s just not tell him about the Data Diet yet. His workers are likely to already have enough on their plates.
This article was written by Andrew Cave from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.