Digital information in today’s businesses is threatening to overflow the banks of the information rivers. The 2010 edition of IDC’s Digital Universe report shows that information overload is not some future catastrophe waiting around the corner – it is here now, staring us in the face.
This explosive growth translates not only into higher cost related to storage, and with higher workplace inefficiency when searching for information. To compound the problem, records managers and CIOs must cope with a diverse and decentralized collection of both legacy paper and digital information. For example, a company’s payroll records may exist concurrently as reports in paper form stored at some off site facility, as Excel spreadsheets stored on centralized servers, individual employees’ computers, and as attachments to emails, and within a third-party, cloud based payroll system.
Most organizations are basically treading water right now – while the information tidal wave is upon them, their efforts are focused on plugging holes, not stemming the tide. To move forward in a proactive way, organizations need to develop an enterprise records management program.
Within most organizations, individual groups tend to develop their own way of managing records. In some cases, this is even left to individual employees, usually with difficult consequences when an employee leaves and someone else takes over that position. Although information is information, it is common to see the management of digital records treated differently than paper records. Organizations with long-standing records management strategies are struggling, as they try to force terabytes of digital records to fit within an archaic and usually complicated system original designed to manage a few 100 boxes of paper.
Lack of consistency and simplicity, combined with the abundance and ever growing volume of digital records, makes it difficult for even the most proactive companies to achieve compliance. The answer to this dilemma is simple – organizations must adopt a single set of records management policies coupled to a simple plan that governs all information, regardless of the data format or location. By implementing standard, enterprise-wide practices for classifying, retaining and destroying records, a company lowers its risk of non-compliance and increases its efficiency, reducing costs. These policies form the backbone of any compliant records management program.
In practice, implementing these strategies can be fraught with potholes. In part 2 of this series, we’ll discuss the steps involved in developing a practical ERM program.