• United States
Executive Editor

Electronic records policies lacking, firms say

Mar 12, 20042 mins
Data Center

U.S. companies’ efforts to preserve electronic records are weak, according to a survey from two professional organizations in the records and information management field.

The Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) and Association of Records Managers and Administrators (ARMA) International sponsored a survey of 2,200 records managers last fall. According to results released this week by research affiliate Cohasset Associates, 47% of respondents say their company doesn’t include electronic records in its retention and destruction schedules, and 59% don’t have a formal e-mail retention policy.

Nearly half are ill prepared to deal with legal or government scrutiny: 46% have not established formal policies and procedures for responding to requests for records. Additionally, 46% have no system for placing holds on records in the event of litigation or a regulatory investigation, and 65% say their company’s hold policy, if one exists, doesn’t include electronic records.

Overall, confidence levels are low: Nearly two-thirds of respondents are “not confident at all” (33%) or only “slightly confident” (29%) that their business organization could successfully demonstrate that its electronic records are accurate, reliable and trustworthy – many years after they were created.

Additionally, while 70% say the IT department is responsible for managing the company’s electronic records, 67% do not believe the IT department really understands the concept of “lifecycle management” of electronic records.

Adding to the complexity of electronic records management is its ongoing nature: Keeping electronic archives accessible requires migrating old records to new software and hardware platforms as technologies age. Yet, 70% of companies do not have a records migration plan in place, according to the survey.

“Rarely, if ever, have so many organizations been so ill-prepared for something so important to the successful long-term management of their information assets,” wrote Cohasset regarding companies’ lack of a migration plan.

On the plus side, there are some indications companies may start to take e-records more seriously. Many respondents appear to understand the limitations of their existing practices; more than one-third rated the effectiveness of their company’s records management program as either “marginal” (18%) or “fair” (23%).

Over the last four years, this negative evaluation has grown by 32%, due in part to an “increasing realization among records management professionals that these records are not being managed with the same level of success as traditional records stored on paper and microfilm,” Cohasset wrote in its research report.