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Many businesses claim they have been busy over the past two years developing and implementing records and information management strategies. But scratch the surface and you find many of those strategies aren't especially effective.

Blame a lack of employee engagement, a lack of commitment at the management level and the absence of meaningful ways to measure the strengths and weaknesses of these efforts.

The Scope of the Problem

It is probably unnecessary to note that poor  information management costs businesses a lot of money. It can also lead to compliance-related disasters and considerable security risks. These are just a few of the conclusions of the 2014 Information Governance Benchmark survey.

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The survey, sponsored by information management vendor Iron Mountain, reflects responses from 1,300 clients of Cohasset Associates, ARMA International and AIIM  —  the organizations that conducted the study.

It's the eighth biennial survey carried out across the records information management (RIM) space since the surveys were introduced in 1999. This year’s survey shows mixed results. While some progress has been made since the last survey two years ago, development of RIM strategies in many organizations is still stagnant. Too many managers embrace a “keep everything” culture under the misperception it is better than careful records governance.

To find out more about the study we talked to Sue Trombley, managing director of thought leadership for Iron Mountain. She conceded many stakeholders have failed to embrace RIM:

The survey shows organizations remain committed to making records and information management a priority, but that important gaps still remain. Information management, when done right, can push your businesses ahead and be a strategic lever for success. But until you achieve buy-in at all levels of the organization, master fundamentals like timely destruction, and implement a system to monitor program effectiveness, the benefits will remain elusive."

Paperless Records

She also points out that many organizations have yet to move from paper to electronic and digital records. This is a problem, particularly because judges in a number of significant cases over the past couple of years have ruled that tweets and Instant Messages (IM) can constitute records and, in some cases, need to be preserved.

The fact that many enterprises are still wasting time with paper records is no real surprise though, and conforms to research from both Adobe and AIIM in the past year that show the concept off a “paperless office” is as elusive now as it ever was.

In fact, the AIIM research from last August showed the move to paperless offices is tediously slow. Paper intensive organizations have cut a mere 5 percent of the paper-based processes they could, despite technologies that facilitate easy, secure document capture.

Trombley said the Iron Mountain sponsored research is not just an appraisal of the current state of enterprise RIM policies, but a call to action.

Mature, well-run RIM programs have the ability to adapt as information grows and changes. Organizations that embrace new thinking and adopt proven practices will be able to elevate their records and information programs and realize what is deemed an information advantage."

None of this is rocket science. It just stands to reason that the better your information is organized and managed, the stronger your commercial edge will be.

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However, as Mimi Donne pointed out in a recent piece on CMSWire, many enterprises are still leaving legacy content lying around even though that information could have considerable business value.

4 Trends and Obstacles

Trombley noted two trends and two obstacles:

  1. Information governance programs are more prevalent, better-designed and inclusive of Electronically Stored Information (ESI).
  2. Effective information governance is increasingly being recognized as essential for corporate compliance and risk mitigation.
  3. Many enterprises still need to modernize.
  4. Legal hold processes are more common, but over preservation is a huge challenge

1. Missing Information Governance elements

If the vast majority of organizations have developed records and information programs (87 percent overall, 95 percent of large organizations), there are still many missing elements. On top of this, a majority of enterprises have introduced standards and policies to address issues around electronically stored information, particularly issues related to the volume of information that currently needs to be stored.