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Survey: Expect records management challenges, focus to continue

Ben Cole, Site Editor

Many organizations can expect increased records management adoption, implementation or expansion in the coming year, a joint survey from Forrester Research Inc. and ARMA International has found.

Forty percent of survey respondents

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expect that their organization's overall records management spending will increase at least 5% from 2012 to 2013. With this broader focus, however, will come increased records management challenges.

"On the investment front, we found that 71% of records management leaders currently have implementation plans underway, or plans to implement records management technology within the next year," said Forrester Research Principal Analyst Brian W. Hill. "That being said, there still are challenges. A lot of executives, for example, still really aren't focused on records management."

One of the challenges that organizations face right now is that they are sitting on top of a rapidly growing set of digital debris.

Brian W. Hill,
principal analyst, Forrester Research Inc.

The Forrester Research and ARMA International Records Management Online Survey, Q3 2012, culled responses from more than 350 records management decision makers. Survey results were released at the ARMA International Conference and Expo, held in Chicago earlier this week.

Adhering to regulatory compliance mandates contributes to this focus on records management, but less-traditional areas requiring information governance efforts are popping up, Hill said.

"We're seeing that roughly 70% of the respondents state that applying records management technology to reduce storage growth and/or to apply controls to additional content is going to be important in the coming year," Hill said.

Many organizations are applying records management technology to address e-discovery concerns as well. Nearly 80% of respondents report current and planned use of technology to enforce retention, disposition and other records management controls.

"One of the challenges that organizations face right now is that they are sitting on top of a rapidly growing set of digital debris; they're accumulating digital landfills," Hill said. This, in turn, creates a need to determine what information is safe to keep and what should be disposed of.

The e-discovery confidence level at many organizations, however, is pretty discouraging, Hill said: Only 12% of survey respondents said that they are "very confident" that, if challenged, their organization could demonstrate that their electronically stored information is accurate and completely trustworthy.

Hill called it a "disturbingly low" figure, and added that surging volumes and varieties of electronically stored information challenges e-discovery efforts.

"The survey also shows that independent legal holds, which I see as a critical component needed for successful disposition programs, [are] missing in individual organizations today," he said.

It's critical that record managers work closely with leaders on their legal teams, in addition to their individual counterparts in compliance and IT, to understand legal-hold technologies and processes currently in place, Hill said.

Doing so can help records managers understand how to better align and effectively link the retention and disposition functionality within records management applications, Hill said. By applying the retention and legal hold functionality of records management applications, records managers can have a clearer idea of what they can get rid of safely, or need to keep, for compliance, litigation or investigation purposes, he said.

Key organizational record management challenges

Respondents rated insufficient budget, lack of executive attention, limited integration with key applications and organizational shortcomings as top records management challenges, the survey found.

A lot of programs still struggle with records management integration gaps -- with shortcomings in talent management and training serving as other obstacles to successful records management, Hill said.

More on records management

The records management and compliance essentials

Creating records management, compliance process synergy

"Concerns about security, privacy and legal issues top the list for adoption barriers," Hill said. "Getting budgets for [records management efforts] has also been difficult for a lot of organizations."

The survey found that, in the next 12 months, 81% of respondents consider an improvement in records management policy consistency an important objective for their organization. In recent years, Hill has seen a steady progression of applying records management processes, techniques and tools to a broader set of electronically stored information.

"As that continues, I think the records manager has potential to have a greater influence and greater impact on these organizations, Hill said.

In order to capitalize on that trend, however, records managers need to market their skills to a wider range of executive stakeholders, he added. Outreach and diplomacy will be necessary to get records management programs enacted.

Records managers, as well as organizations as a whole, are also going to have to put more emphasis on the retention and disposition controls in newly deployed technologies, including cloud-based applications and social media efforts.

"I think it's important for records managers to have a seat at the table so that they are able to provide some guidance on making these purchases," Hill said.

"A lot of companies are leaping before they look -- they are rolling out cloud-based applications without giving much thought to how they are going to handle retention and disposition, and that's a mistake."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Ben Cole, associate editor. For IT compliance news and updates throughout the week, follow us on Twitter @ITCompliance.


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