3 Steps for Tackling Information Overload

by Tera N. Ladner, JD, IGP, CRM and Julie J. Colgan, CRM, IGP


Like it or not, every business is in the information business. Whether you generate information to make products, gather information from customers to provide services, or market your business on social media, the reality is that businesses run on information.

The ease of creating and disseminating information in the age of the Internet has created a tipping point of information overload for individuals and companies alike. Figuring out what to keep, for how long, finding it when you need it, and protecting it from unauthorized disclosure can be a seriously daunting proposition.

The following three steps are obviously over-simplified, but at the end of the day they really are the best and only way to tame the data tsunami.

Know What Information You Have

You can’t manage what you don’t know you have! In today’s increasingly privacy-concerned culture, knowing what information your business creates and receives, and how it is used and by whom, is no longer a nice-to-do activity. Regulations such as Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California’s new CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act) affect businesses of all kinds that do business with citizens of those respective jurisdictions and have potentially staggering consequences for non-compliance.

To get your arms around the information your organization generates, activities such as data inventories and data mapping are common steps to documenting the flow and nature of information within a business.

Organize Information for Easy-Yet-Controlled Access

Have you ever had to recreate a document because you or your boss couldn’t remember where it got “filed”? You’re not alone. The vastness of information in most modern businesses has also spawned a vast array of different organizational techniques that often exacerbates the problem of finding what you’re looking for.

Keeping organizational tactics simple and applying them consistently across the organization is what will save your sanity and stop all of that re-work!

Here is a simple, three-facet information organization schema that can help simplify filing, ensure access control, and improve findability:

  1. Dates (date the letter was written, date of the meeting, due date, termination date, etc.)
  2. Names (client name, project name, executive sponsor name, etc.)
  3. Access Rules (top secret, company confidential, public)

Regardless which facet you choose as a primary facet, keeping it to no more than 3 facets will help you avoid “over-organizing” information into folder structures as deep as the Grand Canyon where no one will be able to find what they are looking for.

Don’t Keep Information Forever!

While this last step for tackling information overload may seem like a “well duh” moment, it is the one step of the three that most businesses are the worst at. Routine, policy-driven information disposition (a fancy word for deleting, destroying or otherwise getting rid of things) is a critical part of a modern organizations’ corporate hygiene. In order to confidently dispose of information no longer needed by a business, the business needs to know what laws and regulations apply to it and what recordkeeping requirements those include.

The discipline of Records and Information Management (RIM) is the key to achieving success with these three steps for tackling information overload. RIM gives administrative professionals the fundamental knowledge and strategies for managing an organizations’ information so it can be easily found and used, secured from unauthorized access, and disposed of in the normal course of business to contain storage costs and mitigate information risk.

IAAP has developed a brand-new specialty, Records Management, and you can earn it exclusively at  IAAP CAPstone 2020. CAPstone 2020 is only for those taking the CAP exam in 2020 or those who hold an active CAP and wish to earn a focused specialty certificate.

Join your peers March 16-18, 2020, at the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, for this incredible opportunity. Class size is limited to ensure personalized learning, so register today!


Tera N. Ladner, JD, IGP, CRM specializes in cloud implementations of information governance enabled technologies, e-discovery and litigation preparedness and assuring alignment to information security programs. Currently she leads the strategy and implementation of a state-of-the-practice information governance and eDiscovery program for Aflac Inc. Aflac is a Fortune 200 company headquartered in Columbus, Georgia and the largest provider of supplemental insurance in the United States and Japan.

Prior to her position with Aflac, Tera directed the information governance program at SunTrust Bank in Atlanta, Georgia. Tera’s experience spans the legal aspects of compliance to the development and use of emerging technology for information governance.

Tera is past president of ARMA International. She has served both at the local and international level within ARMA since 1999 and credits her leadership skills to the experience gained from motivating volunteers. She is passionate about assuring the next generations of information governance professionals are equipped with the breadth of knowledge necessary for success in the industry.

Julie J. Colgan, CRM, IGP is a 20+ year veteran of the information management profession. Her career has spanned public and private organizations across roles as practitioner, consultant and business executive. Ms. Colgan is also a committed leader and volunteer in her industry. In addition to previously serving as the President and Chair of ARMA International, the premier professional association for information management professionals, she is an internationally recognized speaker and author, including co-author of ARMA’s IG BoK (Information Governance Body of Knowledge). She is passionate about helping individuals understand how to harness the power of information to combat corruption through transparency and drive business.

One thought on “3 Steps for Tackling Information Overload

  1. There’s quite a few folks out there that look at records management, roll their eyes and groan! I find it fascinating! Filing structures, access rights, what to keep, how long to keep it and actually discarding it when you’re supposed to! I love it!


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