Fine-Tune Your Electronic Records Like a Racing Pit Boss

Topics : Paper to Digital

When it comes to optimizing e-records in an increasingly rigorous regulatory environment, you don’t need a full pit crew to get your RIM strategy purring like a kitten—just a handful of best practices.

DID YOU KNOW? Manual processes are costing companies. A recent global IDC study revealed that more than one-third of document-driven business processes are defective. More than 3 out of 4 survey respondents said their companies have run into serious business risks and/or compliance issues as a direct result.

FAST FACT: An analysis by InfoTrends discovered that a single employee manually identifying, declaring and classifying one record per day costs an organization $31.75 per year. If a company has 1,000 employees declaring 50 records per day, the cost is $1.5 million annually.

Think of your electronics records strategy as a 1968 Mustang® convertible: It has all the horsepower and fine parts to get from point A to point B in style. But in the hands of an enthusiast who can fine-tune (and apply best practices), it will perform with the power and agility of a NASCAR racer.

While most organizations are at least in the process of switching to electronic records, many haven’t yet backed their records management strategies out of the garage, much less prepared them for a go around the fast track. In fact, according to A View Into Unified Records Management: The Iron Mountain 2012 Compliance Benchmark Report, of the companies that do have a records management policy in place, only 37 percent say they consistently apply it across the enterprise.

Dangerous Curves Ahead: Big Data, Regulations and Paper

If you don’t take steps to manage your e-records soon, you may find it more difficult to handle the challenging course ahead that requires you to:

  • Go Big (Data) or go home. At present, more than 2.7 zettabytes (2.7 billion terabytes) of digital data are swirling around, and that number should grow to more than 4 zettabytes in 2013, according to a December 2012 IDC forecast. You must be able to accommodate this gathering cloud of data, whether it comes from legacy systems, traditional data sources, blogs, tweets or other social media entities.
  • Weather current regulatory conditions. Buckle your seatbelt, because a ride through federal and state regulations isn’t for the faint of heart. Regulatory requirements should shape much of your records management policy, from retention and security measures to document disposal. And you must be prepared for shifts in your obligations as the political and business climates change.
  • Win the paper chase. If your company is like most, it has grown in size and complexity over the years. Your data must be in a format that best suits users’ current requirements. Unfortunately, most document management workflows are outdated, slowing access to information. A recent IDC study found that only about 25 percent of companies are working to convert paper-based business process workflows to digital across the enterprise. All the rest, according to Enterprise CIO Forum, “struggle with manual processes that can’t match the volume or value of the documents they now handle. These labor-intensive manual processes tend to be more error-prone and costly.”

Five Steps to Optimization

If you want to mitigate those challenges and optimize your e-records management strategy, crack open the hood and fine-tune your records management policy around five core industry best practices detailed in the Iron Mountain benchmark report. To make e-records purr like a kitten:

Step 1: Become a policy wonk. Establish a unified records management policy that sweeps all company records, regardless of format and location, under a single set of procedures and management oversight. By adopting this streamlined, all-encompassing policy, you can ensure that everyone in the company has fast, centralized access to both paper and electronic information.

Step 2: Improve your retention. A rigorous regulatory environment and a litigation-prone society may tempt you to save every scrap of information, and electronic records make it so much easier to do just that. But your information should flow more efficiently—and you can reduce your potential liability during discovery—if you regularly and systematically remove unnecessary and extraneous information.  

Step 3: Index everything to ensure access. What good is all that electronic data if you can’t get to it? Define a taxonomy or file plan to classify records and identify indexing parameters. Tag records according to type, business function, creation date, author and other descriptors to make it easier for workers to quickly access the data they need to do their jobs or fulfill a discovery or audit request.

Step 4: Protect data from start to finish—and beyond. Not only do you want to control who can access certain information, you must ensure that it remains private and secure throughout its lifecycle. Use descriptors found in record tags to authorize or prevent access. Once information has reached the end of its life, use secure methods to dispose of it, including secure document destruction for records still on paper.

Step 5: Join the double “A” club. That stands for “auditing” and “accountability.” Tinkering under the hood to get your e-records strategy running smoothly will get you only part of the way around the track; you need to kick the tires and do some routine maintenance to make sure everything is running smoothly. Establish clear ownership of and accountability for your program—possibly relying on members of a steering committee drawn from your IT, human resources, legal and compliance departments. Create a system of checks and balances— audit and remediation.

Just converting your company’s documents to electronic records is like moving from a Focus® sedan to a Mustang® sports car. But that alone won’t increase productivity and cut costs. If you incorporate electronic records into a unified, enterprise-wide records management policy and optimize performance, however, you just may find yourself driving the e-records equivalent of a supercharged BMW®—with all the greater productivity and efficiency gains, lower overhead and valuable peace of mind that comes with it.

Iron Mountain Suggests: Partner Up to Get Policies and Workflow in Sync

To route, manage and share records across your organization, you need a strategy to get RIM in sync with your workflow processes. But before you get started, answer these questions:

  • What are your important business processes?
  • Which records support those processes?
  • What are the risks and costs when users can’t gain fast access to records—or can’t find them at all
  • What is the potential impact of these record management problems on revenue, customer satisfaction, partnerships and regulatory compliance?
  • How should you index the records to speed up information retrieval?
  • Is your staff up to speed on retention requirements for different types of records?
  • How do you ensure that retention and destruction tasks are handled in a compliant manner?

If all this seems overwhelming, you need a strategic partner that offers expertise in all aspects of RIM, from document workflow consulting services to secure destruction.

Iron Mountain can work closely with you to help you determine whether and how well your current information management environment supports core business needs. Based on that assessment, Iron Mountain can help you redesign and update your records management workflows to:

  • Streamline business processes
  • Integrate paper and electronic records
  • Enhance compliance
  • Reduce records management costs and complexity

Do you have questions about information management? Read additional Knowledge Center Small Business resources, or contact Iron Mountain’s Small Business team. You’ll be connected with a knowledgeable product and services Small Business specialist who can address your specific challenges.