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ROT (redundant, outdated, trivial information)

Contributor(s): Pamela Doyle

ROT (redundant, obsolete or trivial) is digital documentation that an organization continues to retain even though the information that is documented has no business or legal value. Employees create ROT by saving multiple copies of the same information, outdated information and extraneous information that does not help the organization meet its goals. ROT can be found on individual desktops, on networks servers, on SharePoint servers, on tablets, mobile devices, mainframe computers and in the cloud.

ROT is detrimental in five important ways. First, it creates excessive storage, infrastructure and maintenance costs. Second, it impairs employees’ ability to demonstrate compliance with regulatory guidelines or respond to discovery requests. Third, it impairs employees’ ability to quickly access the right information and make data-driven decisions in an agile manner. Fourth, ROT is often unmanaged and consequently, is vulnerable to data breaches. And fifth, information that is retained beyond its legal retention period poses a liability risk because it can be used against the organization in legal actions or financial audits.

The Association of Information and Image Management (AIIM) reports that on average, half of an organization’s retained information has no business value and the Compliance, Governance, and Oversight Council (CGOC) estimates that a large company with 10 petabytes of data could be spending as much as $34.5 million on data that could be deleted. To prevent ROT, it’s important for the organization’s key stakeholders – which includes C-level executives, line-of-business (LOB) managers, records management, legal, compliance and information technology (IT) professionals -- to come together and develop a rules-based unified information governance (IG) program that meets the needs of the organization in a holistic manner.

The initial first step when creating an information governance plan is to inventory existing information and determine what has business value and/or is needed for legal reasons; all other content can be considered ROT. Although a manual review of digital documentation can be a laborious process, today there are autoclassification and predictive coding software programs that can be used to discover ROT and classify it accordingly. An effective information governance plan includes provisions for how to deal with ROT in a continuous manner and forms the foundation for a company culture that actively manages information assets and discourages data hoarding.  

ROT may also be referred to as data debris.

This was last updated in September 2016

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