While the sight of a business manager bristling with indignation over “inefficiencies” in the enterprise is a common one, and one of the accepted methods of increasing productivity is better business processes, research published by Iron Mountain would seem to suggest that, from an IT perspective, a good deal of the problem lies with institutionalized inertia rather that with particular products or workforce segments.

While that may seem like a sweeping generalization,  at least superficially -- and, in fact, probably is, if you take it apart --  the findings of Iron Mountain’s Managing Information: Trends in Business Process Efficiency would seem to suggest that, while many companies are aware of inefficiencies in business process management, quite a number are not doing a lot about it.

Business Processes, Management

We have seen in some recent Gartner research that one of the key elements involved in the implementation of an effective enterprise collaboration program is direction from management on the goals and expectations from such a program. For the development of an effective information management program, we can probably say the same.

The Iron Mountain findings are the result of research undertaken earlier this year across 5,500 professionals in mid-sized organizations that aimed to identify key business efficiency challenges.

Recurring Themes

And identify them it did. In fact, had we been writing this article three years ago, we might have come up with the same findings. That is to say, while awareness of problems around information management issues may be higher, and the number of companies reacting to these problems is also higher, the problems still appear to be the same, what we might call the “Frustrating Five."

Frustrating, that is, because no matter what progress has been made on the technology side of the equation, these problems seem to persist.

Findings associated with managing both paper and electronic information include:

  • 65% of organizations polled admit to having an incomplete or no formal records and information management process.
  • 32% of those surveyed report that a trigger event has increased their awareness of the need for improved records and information management.
  • 58% of organizations have not yet experienced such a trigger event.

Trigger events include things such as mergers, or in more extreme cases, lawsuits, or even full-blown disasters.

Iron Mountain: How efficient is your business?

Iron Mountain: How efficient is your business?

The “Frustrating Five”

So what are the “Frustrating Five”? While there are undoubtedly other factors in other IT areas that need careful consideration, in terms of information management, they include:

1. Bottlenecks

Information bottlenecks are still common and result from a lack of consideration of the value of particular information, or content, and its relevancy in the business process.

The research recommends enterprises examine who needs the information, what the information is needed for and whether it is needed in current business processes. Enterprises also need to index all information and develop a means of storing information that is not currently used

2. The Paper Trail

Many enterprises still insist on using paper documents as part of business processes and printing that information out, which leaves it vulnerable to loss, errors or data theft.

The research recommends a planned conversion of paper documents and records into digital information that can be entered, or taken out of business process, as needed, and which can be more easily found in the event of audits or other legal processes.

3. Copies

Many enterprises are still keeping several copies of particular documents, whether those copies are digital, or paper-based, which reduces response times and business process agility.

The recommendation here is simple: Stop it. Enterprises need to create business processes based on single documents, or to create minimal copies when needed that are tracked and regulated within the processes. This can be facilitated by using centralized, electronic storage that provides company-wide accessibility.

4. Preparation

Many companies are not prepared for the unexpected, which means that when the unexpected happens, companies are not ready to respond and recover without considerable business disruption.

To deal with this, many enterprises still need to implement discovery plans that will ensure that both paper and electronic data and records can be restored quickly and without disruption. They also need to develop litigation readiness programs that help you identify and produce the records needed during a lawsuit in a timely manner.

5. Business agility

Business agility depends on enterprises being able to place the right information in the right hands in a timely manner. This, again, goes back to an effective storage policy where information can be located and retrieved just as quickly.

To do this as efficiently as possible, enterprises should optimize workflows so they are able to flex with the changing needs of your company.

Iron Mountain's business efficiency

Iron Mountain's business efficiency

Combined, the five points point to inefficient business process, and other findings in the research would seem to bear that out.

They show:

  • 54% believe their business processes could be improved
  • 37% manage information internally, but not as well as they would like
  • 47% have a records management program that is not being uniformly applied

The paper concludes that, while no one likes an economic recession, a recession provides companies with a chance to focus on streamlining processes and getting more from less.

With many companies now viewing the recession as behind us, it remains to be seen whether lessons learned during hard times will be carried into the good times that seem to be on the way.