The Value of Records Management
It is often hard to make a business case for federated records management or information management more generally. This is because the nature of the benefits is sometimes unclear, and even when they are clear, it is sometimes difficult to quantify those benefits.
Let’s first look at why we do records management at all. At its core, we do records management and information management more generally because information is a strategic asset that makes a direct contribution to the organizational objectives, efficiency, and effectiveness.
The need for recordkeeping is indisputable. In most cases, laws and regulatory requirements also specify that certain records should be created and keep for certain periods of time.
In fact, records are critical to helping organizations:
- Undertake and continue their business functions
- Make good decisions
- Service their customers and clients
- To maintain or enhance reputation
- Respond to legal issues, investigations, inquiries, and audits
So, let’s look more closely at the some of the benefits of records management.
Benefit 1: Reduced Cost
For many organizations, cost reduction remains the primary driver for records management and effective records management enables profitability by lowering the cost of doing business.
Effective management has benefits for data management and addresses the problem of storage growth within the organization.
As an example, if an organization stores 400TB of electronic information and they are able to eliminate 30% of this by managing the content lifecycle more effectively they save on 120TB storage ongoing.
For this scenario, there would be a savings of $198,120.00 1 based on infrastructure costs alone, even before applying the 28% 2 of a single IT FTE’s time that would have otherwise spent managing this additional data. This is all as a result of effective and applied records and information management.
Cost reduction remains the primary driver for records management and effective records management enables profitability by lowering the cost of doing business.
Corporations and government agencies alike complain that they have too many records. Although a valuable resource, many organizations waste too much money by retaining older records, such as data pertaining to inactive customers and long ago completed business transactions, along with a plethora of obsolete versions of information. The obsolete version problem is a particularly painful one and has quantifiable implications for productivity.
A systematic and automated records management process can reduce the cost of these obsolete records and at the same time reduce the inherent risk present in keeping information for longer than required.
Benefit 2: Reduced Risk
Records exist regardless of whether or not they are recognized as such by the organization. Think particularly about vital records within the organization such as lease agreements, signed contracts, articles of incorporation, patents, and intellectual property.
These one-of-a-kind records are critical for an organization to operate in the event of a disaster and require specialized tracking and preservation measures to effectively manage risk.
Effective records management is also a key component of an effective overall corporate risk management strategy. In particular, a systematic retention program can minimize risk related to legal matters and regulatory compliance.
Broadly the risks to records are of the following two types.
Risk related to the security of the record or the information that it contains
Examples of this would be:
- Unauthorized disclosure (e.g. a staff member downloads and emails a confidential document to the press)
- Unauthorized modification, such as some editing final versions of records
- Unauthorized destruction, such as someone deleting documents without approval
Risks to the record continuing to be available, readable and usable for the duration of its lifetime (or retention period)
And some examples of this are:
- Malicious damage and theft
- Environment damage and acts of god
- Improper storage
- Failure to backup information
A well-designed records management system will provide process and application safeguards against these types of risk, across both electronic and physical content.
By ensuring appropriate information retention, systematic records management also reduces the organization’s exposure during civil litigation and investigation. Records provide a critical role as evidence of public liability, personal injury, breach of contract and wrongful dismissal suits to name a few.
The recent introduction of broad-based compliance and information privacy laws such as the EU GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 only makes the need for effective records management more quantifiable and pressing for the decision makers charged with managing organizational risks.
Benefit 3: Increased Revenues
When it is managed effectively, recorded information has a quantifiable value that is marketable and saleable. Customer profiles and mailing lists are obvious examples, but this also applied to broader business intelligence information, such as data about customer or client buying habits, preferences, and behaviors.
Records management also supports the utilization of an organization’s intellectual property in a way that is commercially useful. Whether it be by extracting intellectual property to market a new product, production method or service, efficient and effective records management is vital.
A well-designed records management system will provide process and application safeguards against electronic and physical content risks.
When correctly managed information can also create business opportunities for the organization. Think of the organizational value of an organization’s intellectual property, such as proprietary technologies or processes, trade secrets, patents, product formulations and blueprints, trademarks and copyrights.
And because the efficient management of this type of information also enables easy discoverability and retrieval, it delivers a distinct competitive advantage to the organization that benefits from it.
How to get started?
Understand your costs (and savings)
Understanding your cost base, and therefore the potential saving to be made by investing in a records management solution is key to getting started. This includes a thorough analysis of not just IT infrastructure and data storage costs, but an analysis of the related costs such as IT personnel as well as soft costs, such as the impact on productivity brought by managing high volumes of obsolete records.
Understand your state and exposure
You should be able to answer the following questions to better understand your records readiness:
- Have you designated a formal records management role in your organization?
- Do you have a network of designated liaisons for records management in each organizational unit?
- Have you established a formal records management program within the organization?
- Have you instituted policies and procedures for records management and implemented an automated records management system?
- Have you identified and mapped the applicable laws and regulations that apply to your organization and industry sector? (Examples FINRA, HIPAA, SOX, GLBA, US 36 CFR, GDPR, DoD)
To be at the level where basic records management can be achieved, each question must be able to be answered in the affirmative.
Get the lay of the land
The easiest we to get going is to start identifying the high-value records within the organization that is also high risk. The value of records can normally we determined by two main factors:
- Permanent value: generally one-of-a-kind records such as articles of incorporation, trademarks, and IP.
- Business value: records that enable organizations to undertake and continue their business functions, make good decisions, service their customers and clients, and keep their legal and regulatory obligations.
There are many tools available to identify and appraise the value of your organizational information. Records365 is a federated records and information management platform that provides automated records management across a variety of content sources, spanning cloud and on-premises data centers.
- Based on a 2017 average annual storage cost per raw TB of $1,651 (Gartner, 2018)
- The 2017 average number of raw TBs supported per storage FTE is 419TB (Gartner, 2018)