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If you take a quick glance at companies before and after the pandemic, it’s become obvious the pace of business is not getting any slower—If anything, it’s increasing. While roles have changed and traditional office settings have been reimagined, it’s still business as usual.

We can thank the pandemic and the push to faster evolving technology for enabling us to be connected and productive around the clock, wherever we may be. Forward-thinking companies have started to shift to a more flexible remote schedule while others have ditched the office for good, realizing work can now be done from the comfort of our home or favorite Wi-Fi connection.

The result of our productivity is being felt. Organizations are expected to manage the volume of all personally identifiable information in order to be compliant with newly enacted “right to be forgotten” regulations. Governing bodies have enacted a combined 10,000+ statutes and regulations that include some reference to how records are to be retained and made accessible. Failing to comply with any one of the regulations or statutes can result in a company being fined, facing sanctions or in a worst case going out of business.

 

A Cautionary Tale

Remember Arthur Andersen? For those who don’t, Andersen served as Enron’s auditor for 16 years—conveniently overlooked significant amounts of money that was not being represented in Enron’s books. On the surface and to its investors, Enron appeared to be thriving—reporting annual revenues of $101 billion from 1985-2000 and trading at $80-90 per share in the years leading up to its collapse.

But what investors saw was just the tip of the iceberg.

On top of concealing losses, Andersen was also found guilty of destroying thousands of Enron documents, including paper files, computer files and emails. When Enron reported historic losses of $638 million in the third quarter of 2001, prompting investors to sell the stock at such a drastic rate that shares plummeted to less than $1 in less than a day. It was the largest single day trading volume for any stock in the history of the NYSE and NASDAQ.

Fast forward to today’s landscape and we can see clear warning signs from the example set by Enron and Andersen. Coupled with stricter compliance laws, responsible records management and information governance are now safeguards that can prevent catastrophe.

Companies today must have ready access to their information to provide timely responses to requests for information by employees, consumers and auditors. Consider for a moment the number of businesses and individuals who request information daily and the broad spectrum of locations where we have to go to find this information.

As we reflect on that scenario, it should not be surprising to hear that studies have shown knowledge workers spend 25% of their time searching for needed information.  And, that once the find the information, they’ll make a copy of it so they don’t have to go through that search again.

 

Industry Trends

Eleven years ago, in 2010, AIIM, a non-profit enterprise content management association, conducted a study to evaluate the management of electronically stored information. In 57% of the responding organizations, senior management reported more or much more awareness of records management risks to the business.

Yet, with the increased awareness of records management risks, only 43% of respondents believe that they have achieved integration of their records and information management policies across their organization. The impact of not having proper management over information is being felt. For 31% of respondents, a lack of complete electronic information has been an issue with regulatory authorities and for 35% it has been an issue in a court case.

In the latest polls taken within the industry, these numbers have not improved significantly.  Added to the issue is the explosion of web-meeting recordings taken in the past year.  The lessons learned from government in managing Council meetings provide insight into how massive the undertaking is, and, the impact on including those recordings in responsive document collection in litigation or audits.

Has your company updated your policy to include all records, regardless of format?  Do your procedures detail how to manage sensitive information while working from home?  Is your system of record capable of managing and preserving recordings?  How many systems of record do you really have?

Old-fashioned data map, records inventory and information flow should be on your governance roadmap in 2021 to get a deeper understanding of the “who, what, where, when and how” of your company’s information.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, Western Integrated Systems has been lending a helping hand for 40 years. Contact us and our team of records experts will walk you through a process that will get you back on track towards compliance.