How to achieve information best practice

By Daniel Warren-Smith

Most organisations understand that there is significant benefit in organising and streamlining their information. Unfortunately achieving this is fraught with many challenges, including the question of what information to keep, and for how long. Whilst it is clear hoarding information can create significant and diverse risks for organisations, retaining no information at all is also clearly not an option. Somewhere in the middle is information best practice, but how do we get there?

There is no better place to start than with a retention policy. Various types of information may either have a shelf life or have to be kept indefinitely. This policy will provide the clarity necessary to minimise risks and the chance of costly litigation either caused by destroying information before, or retaining it beyond, the end of its legally required retention period.

With the legislation and regulation concerning information retention so complex and far-reaching, it is important for everyone in the organisation to have a thorough understanding of, and be compliant with, the organisation’s retention policy. Educating employees from the top down is one of the most effective ways to minimise risk.

The benefits of an effective Records & Information Management (RIM) strategy

A compliant and effective records management program provides easy retrieval of information while keeping costs to a minimum, in addition to producing both immediate and long-term benefits for the organisation. This in turn helps to:

Control record volumes: The implementation of a ‘records retention schedule;’ that involves the destruction of unnecessary information can reduce physical and digital storage requirements by up to 40%, producing an enormous cost saving for most organisations.[1]

Improve access to information: With the right systems in place, organisations can expect to be able to respond more quickly to changes in the environment, resulting in faster time-to-market, improved customer service, and more informed decisions.

Ensure regulatory compliance: More organised information management with reduced clutter helps organisations remain compliant with the multitude of industry-specific guidelines as well as laws and regulations it must abide by.

Improve efficiency and productivity: Effective RIM results in important information being retained, while unnecessary information is discarded, reducing costly delays for employees when searching for records. Adobe-commissioned IDC white paper “Bridging the information worker productivity gap” identifies opportunities for increasing information worker productivity; with the average knowledge worker spending in excess of 20% of their time filing or searching for documents, and effective RIM strategy can have real impact, saving an estimate of $10,000 per knowledge worker per annum.

Making a change – Knowing your information management ‘profile’

As with any journey, getting from A to B requires you to know exactly where ‘A’ is. Determining where the organisation is starting, and which road it will travel means identifying the biggest roadblocks and truly understanding the current state of information management.

Iron Mountain has identified six key organisational ‘profiles’, each of which faces its own set of challenges and recommendations for how it can cleanse its records and information management (RIM) program and enhance the value of data.

The Digitiser travels the path of streamlining workflows and automating processes by removing paper. However, in doing so, it must recognise the importance of knowing what to scan to improve productivity. As such, digitisers should look to follow these key commandments:

  1. Identify inefficient manual steps in key workflows
  2. Apply metadata and business rules
  3. Don’t aim to digitise everything – just what you need
  4. Automate workflows where possible.

The Unifier seeks to ensure alignment between electronic and paper policies, applying these consistently across all records. To get there, the Unifer needs to:

  1. Align paper and digital policies
  2. Standardise metadata
  3. Connect information and administer policy in one system
  4. Provide common search and discovery.

The Records Reducer has recognised its hoarding short-comings, and recognises that it needs to significantly reduce storage costs by gaining a clearer idea of what to destroy. Records Reducers should look to:

  1. Make sure IT assets are securely disposed of
  2. Ensure retention policies are up to date
  3. Take advice on defensibility
  4. Securely shred records eligible for destruction
  5. Ensure go-forward inventory is properly indexed.

The Vendor Consolidator is grappling with inconsistent information management vendor policies that expose it to major litigation and financial risk. Having recognised its need to consolidate, the road to recovery lies in:

  1. Calling for bids to migrate and manage
  2. Consolidating to one place to find information
  3. Prioritising consistent application of policy.
  4. The Program Accelerator has a mature RIM program, but wants to improve its measurement of program performance. Unfortunately, the biggest challenge facing the Program Accelerator may not be policy or process, but people. The Program Accelerator can reach its goal with following tips:
  1. Take a lead role in the overarching information governance strategy for both electronic and physical information
  2. Manage IT systems from selection to decommissioning
  3. Proactively tackle trigger or event based retention
  4. Create defensible policies, procedures, tools and a retention schedule
  5. Train organisation on RIM compliance
  6. Monitor performance in all areas with defined metrics
  7. Benchmark against your peers.

The Space Maker is determined to change the ‘keep everything’ culture embedded within the organisation. When every bit of space counts, repurposing real estate for use in revenue-generating activities becomes a priority. Space Makers should look to:

  1. Maximise your real estate through outsourcing things like offsite tape vaulting and records storage
  2. Determine what needs to stay onsite and what can be destroyed or sent offsite
  3. Assess your records depositories.

Every RIM program is different, and the strategies outlined above are certainly not mutually exclusive. However, identifying your starting point and committing to achieving the desired end result is the first step toward getting more value from your RIM governance program, and from information in general. Here at Iron Mountain, we help thousands of organisations diagnose where they are starting from so they too can operate within information best practice.

Daniel Warren-Smith heads up Iron Mountain’s Imaging and BPO business in Australia. 

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