New Report Reveals Information-Management Opportunities—and Obstacles
August 14, 2012
The Iron Mountain Compliance Benchmark Report, A View Into Unified Records Management, provides an in-depth look at current information-management practices—including some formidable challenges now facing organizations like yours.
Despite good intentions, many companies are struggling to execute records-management plans. More than 72% haven’t developed strategic, multiyear programs, and only 37% have applied policies consistently.
The continuing deluge of data, much of it from nontraditional sources, along with mounting pressure for regulatory compliance has pushed information management to the forefront at many organizations. A recent Iron Mountain survey showed businesses increasingly shifting records management to their legal or audit departments and standardizing policies throughout the organization.
These pressures are moving businesses to unify their records management, with fewer policies or even a single policy across departments and locations and for all media formats—from venerable paper to electronic tweets. The shift is encouraging many companies to establish a strategy and a multiyear plan designed to regain control of their information.
Still, consistency of execution remains a huge challenge. Most businesses recognize the importance of putting resources into records management. But because some efforts are limited to particular departments or locations, procedures may not hold across an entire organization.
Drawing on more than 4,000 Compliance Risk Assessments from professionals in every vertical market, the Iron Mountain Compliance Benchmark Report, A View Into Unified Records Management, provides a comprehensive picture of information-management practices today.
First, the Good News
Clearly, managing information has become important to many organizations:
- 94% of respondents said that even in uncertain economic times they intended to marshal more resources—budget and otherwise—to better manage information
- 72% said they were committed to improving existing records-management programs
- 80% percent claimed to have formal records and information-management policies
Nearly 73 percent of organizations have shifted accountability to legal departments, compliance departments or formal records-management committees. That adds up to a steady improvement in information management.
The Gap Between Plans and Practice
Despite good intentions, however, many companies are struggling to execute their records-management plans. Although most said they have formal policies in place, more than 72 percent haven’t developed strategic, multiyear plans, and only 37 percent have applied policies consistently.
Some organizations said they lack consistent procedures for information-management practices. This leaves them vulnerable to noncompliance risk, reputation damage and real costs. Fully 63 percent of respondents experienced trigger events that cost their company money because they lacked consistent procedures.
Managing Data, from Paper to Tweets
Although paper records may seem challenging, they’re successfully managed by most organizations. The survey reported that paper documents are most consistently managed. They have the clearest retention policies, perhaps because paper has been around so long.
And paper isn’t going away. In fact, more than half of the respondents to an Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) study said paper use is not decreasing, and 27 percent claimed an upswing in paper use. Companies are also increasingly adding imaging to their Records Information Management (RIM) strategies to help ease the paper deluge and to integrate paper records with electronic ones.
One pressing challenge involves the emergence of social media. The Iron Mountain report showed that although most organizations have incorporated social media into their business plan, nearly 50 percent of their managers don’t realize that they’re legally liable for content generated from tweets, blogs and wikis. About a third characterized their efforts to corral burgeoning data sources as “unmanaged and chaotic.”
As a result, businesses are beginning to set clear policies that recognize such material as part of the company’s formal records.
Going for the Gold: Best Practices
While most companies have improved records and information management since Iron Mountain began its survey in 2007, the benchmark report identifies five best practices that can help companies reduce costs, avoid risks, and lay the groundwork for a unified records-management strategy.
1. Jump-start consistent policies: Companies must commit to an ongoing process, not a one-off initiative.
- Improve and optimize all aspects of RIM
- Implement guidelines consistently, enterprise-wide
- Develop formal RIM policies, supported by education, to help employees understand them
- Create a clear retention and disposal policy
- Set a policy for holding records needed for litigation
2. Draw (and color in) the big picture on retention: Retention goes beyond preserving information to include managing intellectual property, implementing cost control, and organizing location and retrieval.
- Define a multiyear RIM plan and timeline
- Identify physical and electronic records, and note where they’re located
- Apply retention to high-risk records first
- Update retention schedules every 12 to 18 months
3. Grasp the importance of access: When employees don’t have quick, effective access to needed information, productivity suffers, and litigation response and/or regulatory compliance can be compromised.
- Define record classification with indexing parameters, such as record class, business function and creator
- Establish a consolidated RIM process that uses your classification scheme to link records to your retention schedule
- Index records by subject matter
- Define ownership of records
- Designate access rights and limit access according to job responsibilities
- Use imaging selectively
4. Manage privacy and disposal: Privacy must be preserved during the proper destruction of records.
- Create an accurate classification system that links to retention policies
- Document the way records are identified and approved for destruction
- Develop a method to hold records affected by legal intervention
- Instill secure processes to destroy records, including documented chain of custody and certificate of destruction
- Define security and authorization-access levels
- Implement an enterprise-wide rollout that includes employee education
5. Create an accountability trail: Take a proactive approach that integrates with your organization’s formal internal audit process.
- Get visibility, with involvement and support from the highest levels of the organization
- Create a system of checks and balances—with audit and remediation
It may seem daunting to pull together such a comprehensive RIM strategy. Consider teaming with a trusted partner with the expertise and technology to help you get there faster. The payoff will be worth it.
Iron Mountain Recommends Unified Records Management
Many organizations are heading toward Unified Records Management at breakneck speed. Others, not so much. By bringing together all records under a single set of policies and procedures, with management oversight, companies gain control. Develop a single policy to deal with both electronic and paper records, and apply it to all records, regardless of format or location. Here’s how to start:
Build a foundation
Put fundamental elements in place in the areas of policy, procedures, retention, training and legal holds. Once defined, these foundation items can be applied across all record formats and rolled out to all places of business.
Unify physical records
Get better control of active and inactive records stored onsite or offsite, regardless of who currently manages them. Control is achieved by establishing a single, definitive system of records management—leveraging the foundation elements—to define the actions that can take place for physical records, no matter where they live.
Unify electronic records
The challenge of unifying electronic records is even greater than physical because of the many sources, plus the exponential growth of this information. While traditional application databases and file shares are expanding, entirely new sources of information—from email and instant messaging to social media and SharePoint systems—are pushing the volume of business information ever higher.
Do you have questions about information management? Read additional Knowledge Center stories on this subject, or contact Iron Mountain’s Information Management team. You’ll be connected with a knowledgeable product and services specialist who can address your specific challenges.
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Records Management Creating a Social Media Success Story
Five-Stepping Your Way to Smarter Information Management