AIIM Research Shows Shortcomings in Records Management, Risk, Information Governance Practices

8 minute read
David Roe avatar

The paperless office appears further away than ever before. According to recent research from AIIM we are using more paper records than ever before, there are still significant problems capturing and storing information for records and, even worse, senior management is sticking its head in the sand and ignoring the inherent risks in these practices.

The research, published in the AIIM Industry Watch series, makes for grim reading if your business depends on effective information management -- and let’s face it, that’s just about all businesses.

Records Management Challenges

Under the title Information Governance -- records, risks and retention in the litigation age, Doug Miles finds some damning evidence to suggest that instead of actively trying to manage records, enterprises are doing the electronic equivalent of sweeping them under the carpet.

Instead of working out lifecycle policies for records, they are in many cases hanging on to everything, and when all their storage space is filled up, many just go and buy more.

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Information governance elements

Leaving aside the fact that many enterprises now have a substantial cloud presence with many storing content in costly cloud silos, and the fact that the rise of big data technologies has meant that enterprises can potentially gain a lot of customer insight from this data, from a business and legal perspective it just doesn’t make sense.

But this survey was not even about the wider issue of electronic documents. While it looks at that in a general sense, its focus was on records management and what enterprises are doing to keep themselves covered.

Records Management Risks

There is a very practical reason why enterprises should be looking at this. Businesses are increasingly faced with the possibility of high profile criminal, commercial and patent cases that hinge on evidence from electronic documents, from emails and even from social network comments.

Chances are that the information that can keep you from a very nasty court case and substantial fines is somewhere in the enterprise, but if you don’t have a records management policy and you can’t find those records … well, you’ve been warned.

The report itself is 35 pages and absolutely stuffed with striking facts and figures. The information was skimmed from  a web-based survey of 548 individual members of the AIIM community between January 18 and February 11, 2013. It is not possible to go through all of it here, but there are some salient points that we think are worth pointing out.

Paper Records On The Rise

One of the most striking facts that come out of this year’s report is that the number of paper records is increasing despite the growing volumes of electronic content and the ease with which enterprises can turn physical records into electronic records.

The volume of paper records is increasing in 42% of organizations and decreasing in 34% -- a negative gap of 8 percent. This is in contrast to last year’s report which saw more organizations showing a decrease than an increase.

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Why there should be a return to increase in paper growth is not clear, research author Doug Miles says. It may simply be that the number of business transactions fell during the economic downturn, it could be file-scanning projects have been run down and notrestarted as a cost cutting measure, or that during the downturn, space was scrutinized more closely.

Also of note here is that while deletion polices were, generally speaking, the same for electronic and paper records, when it comes to destruction, enterprises were more likely to destroy electronic records than paper records.

There was some positive news for emails, with 73% of enterprises selectively treating emails as records, but the problems here have been replaced by concerns around the way electronic messaging is treated.

It seems that few organizations are treating dynamic, personalized content as records, collaborative SharePoint content is considered transient as is instant messaging despite the fact that they have a legal standing. The challenge here, then, is to start looking at policies to manage this.

Email, Social, Records

Taking a closer look at the way emails and social media content is treated also provides a very interesting insight into current information governance policies.


In 2009, AIIM looked at email management and found a very confused picture with some enterprises considering it transient with no place for it in enterprise records repositories.

Since then, a number over very high profile cases in both civil and criminal proceedings have been settled on the basis of emails with the result that enterprises have started to sit up and take note.

That said, enterprises are still leaving it to employees to be diligent and make decisions as to what emails to keep and where they should be stored (55%) with only 3% using automated records classification here.

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Records management concerns

One of the few good things that can be said about emails now is that contrary to what was seen in 2009, most organizations actually do have a policy, although with the release of Exchange 2010 and Exchange in Office 365 with their bottomless mailboxes this has become confused again.

Miles points out that in this respect no matter how big the mailboxes are, they are not archives and do not enable search or information sharing in the enterprise.


Social is an entirely different animal and one that is only relatively new to the records management story. The problem is that there is a lot of content being published on internal and external sources, but it is difficult to capture and many don’t have the resources to deal with it.

Learning Opportunities

That said, 37% of enterprises see the risks here and realize that there large numbers of conversations that are happening in social networks that should be kept.

Of those 15% who are saving social content to their RM system, a third are manually selecting, with only 5% automatically selecting and tagging on entry to the RM system.

For the biggest organizations, 20% are saving social content with 10% using autotagging. Just as we have seen in the past with emails, dedicated archives for social content seems to be the logical solution, even if this means an additional repository in the system.

In organizations that have social media records, 34% of them have been used to resolve a customer or -- for public organizations -- a citizen dispute, but they have also been used for staff disciplinary actions (17%) and staff dismissals (9%).

Information Governance

Why take all the time and effort to develop a records management or information governance policy? On this, the enterprises were very clear.

Litigation costs and damages were considered to be the biggest risks from not having such policies in place while a reduction in storage costs is considered the biggest benefit followed by knowledge sharing and the ability to rapidly react to events. 

As yet the discussion around information governance and whether it provides positive benefits in terms of sharing data, or negative effects in terms of avoiding compliance or litigation cases has still to be resolved.


Asked to name the three most significant risks for their organizations, excess litigation costs are seen as the biggest risk of failing to introduce an information governance strategy. Along with this, breaches of customer related data, bad publicity and loss of customer confidence from a data leak were also considered important considerations.


With a growing amount of electronic information in the system turning into a real headache, the issue of deletion versus retention has also become a significant problem. This is particularly so as storage issues come to the fore more and more, in order to put some restraint on the seemingly exponential growth in disk storage. At this point the benefits of freeing up space is now perceived to be such an important issue that it has pushed information sharing down the list.

On top of this, faster and more agile response to a wide range of events such as bad weather, accidents, press activities, FOI enquiries, social media storms and so on is also a clear benefit of the ready access to electronic records on an enterprise-wide basis.

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AIIM: Records management benefit


As the people most likely to know where information is stored, IT managers will probably be the ones with the most concerns about governance policies. Even with policies in place, monitoring and enforcement is a major concern for many of those who responded, especially across multiple repositories and other enterprise systems.

Just a final word here on spending. It is clear that enterprises recognize that there is a problem with information governance, a fact that is reflected in the rise in the amount of money budgeted for this kind of spending.

In this year’s survey 45% said they are planning to increase their budget over the next two years with just 14% decreasing.

The only areas that appear to be showing decline is spending on physical records management systems and paper records outsourcing.

With thenumber of organizations who are increasing their spend compared with those maintaining their current spend, we see that automated classification tools show the greatest growth, along with enterprise search and email archiving -- which may also have an element of auto-classification.

Again this is only some of the points that we found interesting in an extremely comprehensive and detailed report. If you are interested in more on this and want the full report you can download it here after registration.