Define and Develop a Data Classification Program

Simplify data classification for broader visibility into your security program.


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Your Challenge

  • Huge volumes of data, in all different types, make data discovery a daunting task. With such backlogs of information, it can be difficult figuring out where to start classification.
  • Ad hoc classification systems may lack consistency and accountability. Which formal classification system is right for you?
  • End users are one of the weakest links in data security. Relying on end users to accurately classify and handle sensitive information requires significant awareness and training. 

Our Advice

Critical Insight

  • Avoid analysis paralysis. Classifying all your data at once may not be feasible. Start small, quantify your results, report it to management, and then go back and tackle a larger portion.
  • Data is dynamic. Data, by its nature, does not stay static. A piece of data’s criticality will peak, but strategic reassessment will eliminate over/under protection of data. Data classification must be a program, not a project.
  • Classify what matters. Focus the program on data whose classification is measurable, auditable, and manageable. 

Impact and Result

  • Formalize the data classification initiative with the proper policies and handling standards, as well as a structured steering committee to ensure accountability and consistency.
  • Understand where your data lives and what controls are implemented to protect the data. Make sure the protection is proportional to the sensitivity and criticality of the assets.
  • Understand what tools are available to implement an efficient data classification program – whether provided from a third party or done in-house. Know how and when to revisit classifications to keep them up to date. 

Define and Develop a Data Classification Program

Start here – read the Executive Brief

Read our concise Executive Brief to find out why you should define and develop a data classification program, review Info-Tech’s methodology, and understand the four ways we can support you in completing this project.


Define the requirements

Formalize your data classification steering committee, classification scheme, and documentation.


Discover the data

Perform data discovery to understand where your most sensitive data resides.


Implement data classification

Perform data classification and draw out valuable insights to drive strategic security decisions.

Onsite Workshop

Book Your Workshop

Onsite workshops offer an easy way to accelerate your project. If you are unable to do the project yourself, and a Guided Implementation isn't enough, we offer low-cost onsite delivery of our project workshops. We take you through every phase of your project and ensure that you have a roadmap in place to complete your project successfully.

Module 1: Define the Requirements

The Purpose

  • Define and formalize the data classification program to fit your organization’s needs.

Key Benefits Achieved

  • A right-sized classification program with formal documentation laying the foundation



Assemble the Data Classification Steering Committee

  • Established Data Classification Steering Committee Members


Define the Data Classification Steering Committee Charter

  • Formalized Data Classification Steering Committee Charter


Determine the classification scheme

  • Defined data classification scheme


Develop the Data Classification Policy

  • Formalized Data Classification Policy


Develop the Data Classification Standard

  • Formalized Data Classification Standard

Module 2: Discover the Data

The Purpose

  • To effectively mitigate risk and classify data, you must know where your data resides.

Key Benefits Achieved

  • Initial insight into where your data resides




Develop questionnaire to conduct data discovery with key data owners

  • Questionnaire to conduct discovery interviews


Interview key departments / data owners

  • Preliminary data discovery interview results


Identify where to prioritize classification

  • Prioritization of assets to classify


Re-evaluate policy and standard

  • Finalized policy and standard documents

Module 3: Implement Data Classification

The Purpose

  • Classify the data to inform strategic security decisions.

Key Benefits Achieved

  • Development of supporting evidence regarding current state of data protection based on classification to drive future security initiatives



Classify data in the inventory tool

  • Data classification inventory starting point


Analyze results of the preliminary classification

  • Security and location analysis charts to share with management


Begin developing a data classification training and awareness program

  • Plans for training and awareness


Determine metrics to measure the effectiveness of the program

  • List of metrics

Search Code: 78924
Published: October 22, 2015
Last Revised: February 17, 2016