Recently, we wrote a 4-part blog series that dug deep into ARMA’s second annual Information Governance (IG) Maturity Index Survey Report (read part 1 here). This week we’re back with additional insights on what the information management profession is focusing on today and in the future.

In partnership with LeadtoMarket, we surveyed professionals in information security, compliance, and privacy across 50 of the most respected companies headquartered in the U.S. operating in highly regulated industries.

As Access’ VP of Information Solutions, I was pleased to be able to share these findings with an engaged and intrigued audience in a recent webinar titled, Information Management: From Clay Tablets to the Cloud and Beyond.

Following are some of the surprising and some (not-so-surprising) findings:

Predictions of the Paperless Office Were Wrong

It doesn’t take much effort to see that the paperless office hasn’t exactly come to fruition yet. We’ve made progress, but the truth is – we’re still a long way off.

According to the survey results mentioned above, 80% of respondents are still managing half of their records or more in physical formats.

It’s not just the hassle of dealing with the paper records. As I noted in the webinar, “many organizations are dealing with multiple copies in both digital and physical versions. This makes information governance a big challenge for many organizations.”

In short, we’re not all going to be running our work and personal lives solely from digital devices for a while—paper is still in use and will be for a long time.

Digitization is a priority, but…

Global consulting group McKinsey & Company released the results of a survey at the close of 2020 on the topic of digital transformation during the pandemic.

One of the most interesting data points was that the pandemic had accelerated digital transformation plans for many companies by anywhere between three and seven years ahead of schedule. Our survey confirmed this point as 70% of respondents said that the need for remote work accelerated the need to digitize both active and archival records to enable their employees to work productively.

Our survey also found that the work on digitizing records continues to this day – as 66% of companies have active initiatives to reduce the prevalence of paper records.

As I shared on the webinar, this is “not necessarily translating to less paper records, but there are far more digitization initiatives taking place in the last two years.” 90% of survey respondents said that these new paper records being created need to be kept for anywhere between 5 and 25 years which can be difficult to access and quite costly to maintain between personnel and real estate costs.

…Digitization is also a major obstacle

While the number of digitization initiatives continues to grow and remains a priority, digitization is also proving to be a massive bottleneck, largely due to the time it takes, and the cumbersome process involved.

A staggering 90% of respondents report it takes between 5 and as many as 20 steps to scan a record and transfer it to secure storage. Additionally, 86% of companies use multiple systems to convert physical records into securely managed digital formats (with most organizations having over 20 systems of record). This is why many companies choose to outsource the effort.

The centralization and digitization of records is critical not only to make information accessible but also to remain compliant – which brings us to our last point.

Compliance with privacy and records retention related laws is complex and penalties for non-compliance are high

Privacy laws such as GDPR and CCPA puts the liability for theft of records (and keeping unnecessary information) squarely on the record holder. Most highly regulated companies operating in the U.S. are responsible for complying with 8,000 or more records-related laws and regulations, while global firms are subject to more than 20,000. As I relayed in my recent webinar, compliance requires that your organization have a records retention schedule backed with current laws and regulation and that you plan for the required people, technology, and processes involved when considering solution options.

The enforcers for these laws are clearly taking the matter quite seriously. In fact, the fines for information breaches, compliance, and e-discovery are growing larger and keep increasing in frequency.

As was mentioned previously when we wrote about Amazon’s $883M fine, EU regulators are putting severe pressure on organizations to remain compliant with proper use of information in their possession. A recent publication from Thomson Reuters titled “Cost of Compliance 2021: Shaping the Future” by Susannah Hammond and Mike Cowan put this in clear perspective. The biggest board challenge they identified is the volume of regulatory change, instilling a culture of compliance, and meeting regulatory expectations.

Pulling your Digitization Plan Together

Another observation I shared during the webinar is: “For many organizations, understanding what’s in their paper storage boxes can be as puzzling as hieroglyphics”.

Effectively transitioning an information management program to a digitally focused one always comes down to first understanding what you have and what your regulatory requirements are. To make the latter significantly quicker and easier, investigate compliance and privacy policy management solutions that include a continuously updated legal research database that tracks laws and regulations related to records and information governance requirements at the country, state and province/ territory level.

Likewise, maintaining an up-to-date retention schedule properly informs you of what regulations must be adhered to and when, and from there you can add your repositories and content types in relation to those policies.

That framework should provide a good indicator of where your priorities should be focused – a great place to start. From there, you need to filter out the core pieces of information being digitized to assess volumes and prep work required.

If you’re choosing to work with a vendor to help expedite the initiative, there are many questions you should be asking while vetting them for the job, including:

  • How do you maintain security during the digitization process?
  • What is your secure chain of custody process?
  • Do you do the prep work ahead of imaging?
  • What resolution do you return imaged files in?
  • What is your QA/QC process?
  • Do you offer document indexing services?
  • What is your turn-around time/SLA?
  • And more…

To learn about the full LeadtoMarket survey results and gain additional guidance on these topics, check out my recent webinar, now on-demand – Information Management: From Clay Tablets to the Cloud and Beyond.

And for information on how to find the best partner to help you manage your complete information lifecycle, check out our complimentary eBook: From Vendor to Partner.