User Clean Up Days to Enhance Your Information Asset Management

By Edan Puritt

I was asked recently to jot down some thoughts about a User Clean Up Day. I hate User Clean Up Days. They are not a productive use of time. There are other things I would rather be doing. There are other people who are betterdust-pan at cleaning than I am. There are actually people who like cleaning, and I am not one of them. Yes, I really do sound like one of my kids, years ago, when I suggested it was time for a room clean up. Just the same, all those parental concerns and arguments still resonate. How can you find anything? Are those clothes on the floor clean or dirty? You are going to attract bugs and mice.

Why is Clean Up Needed for Responsible IM?

clean-upThe reality remains, if we don’t keep our information repositories clean, we are going to have to take the time and effort to clean them. And, we will need to do so for all the same reasons I gave my kids. But what does a User Clean Up Day look like? How do you prepare for an Information Management-focused clean up? I have seen quite the spectrum but would be really interested to hear others’ experiences.

Examples of HOW Clean Up is Handled

trash-binThere was one client who applied a very aggressive seven-year retention-disposition schedule: keep everything for seven years, and then once a year, get rid of everything older than seven years. That worked well, until someone realized the staff were recycling all the disposed documents and having a small party with the recyclereward. What was most amusing was that the problems were with the party rather than the release of potentially private information. Then there are the places that treat the day like an extra day off. Managers don’t communicate how important it is to work in an organized and safe environment, so staff don’t place any priority on it. Of course, there are even the people who would resist cleaning, even if they were asked to. A broad brush description would have these users be examples of people who keep a copy of any document that they think they might need one day. It’s indicative of the people who take a very personal view of the role they have in the organization, and who are generally oblivious to the corporate good. In effect, these are the people who expose their organization’s butt while they cover their own.

Look to the Culture to Determine the Motivation

These examples highlight the real challenge of a User Clean Up Day, as much for office users, as it did for my efforts to get the kids to clean their rooms. It’s going to be a real challenge to find a single reason for cleaning that resonates with everyone. What kind of environment or culture is the request being asked in? 2015-calendarAnd, is the request framed as something that is good for them, for us, or for me.

Put it on the Calendar

Users, like do-it-yourself’ers (or teenagers), need to get used to the idea of cleaning before they understand the value of keeping their work environment clean. A clean workspace means keeping things tidy and orderly, but it also means remove things that are a safety risk (remember e-Discovery costs, or the risk of using the wrong piece of information to make a decision). So, to get staff used to having a clean and safe work space, schedule ‘user clean up days’ initially to get things going. Eventually, your staff will keep things clean.

Benefits of Clean Ups versus Risks of No Clean Ups

laptopIf you are in an organization that can afford to keep multiple copies for a long time—or is not regularly spending money on eDiscovery—you can probably do your user clean up day once a year. If, on the other hand, you don’t have the funds to store, maintain, and search through multiple copies of the same document, or you keep finding multiple copies of the same document that you hand over to your lawyers for eDiscovery, then schedule User Clean Up days more frequently—quarterly is a good start. Quarterly clean ups allow a much faster and immediate return on investments. Also, the increased frequency is far more likely to alter behaviour.

Clean Up, Clean Up, Everybody do your share…

cleaning-suppliesIf you are the change manager in charge of this activity, have fun with the process. Make it a game: who deletes the most? Who makes the most space? Which team has removed the most duplicates? Remember, what you’re really trying to do is create a culture of a clean, safe workspace. Take all the sharp objects out of the playground, don’t keep asking the kids to play around them. And, as anyone who has seen the shelves in my garage can attest, I do keep bits and pieces from previous projects just in case. It really is the same in business. If each business iteration is a project, there may well be information artifacts that could come in handy at some unforeseen date. Each instance and person will be a bit different, but if we can at least learn to store those bits and pieces properly (treat them as templates), we will find them when we need them, and we can manage them without tripping.

 What to keep ( ✓ )  What to throw away ( X )  
  • Originals
  • Copies of information pertaining to an ongoing business iteration
  • Original information from external sources
  • Copies of anything internal or external
  • Paper copies of any electronic document
  • Old versions of any reference material



Return on Investment

moneyNot sure if a Clean Up Day is worth the money? Here is the math. Pay your user once to clean up a file or build your system X times larger than it has to be to store garbage and copies… and pay your lawyers X times to look at the file, and all its copies, each time there is litigation. Oh, and also calculate the Y risk of making a business decision based on an old, superseded, or incorrect information artifact.

The Real Lesson

Much like the environmental consciousness of reduce, reuse, and recycle, it’s not really about cleaning or recycling. The extra effort, the cost, of recycling is really meant to educate us to only buy or make what we need in the first place. Users: Don’t make a copy if sharing the original is possible IM/IT: Make it possible to share the original 

Askari-User Clean Up Day

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