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Records Management - Overcoming barriers to gain rewards

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Finally, the less content that is stored, the lower the exposure an organization has to security breaches. “If a company can mitigate one breach or minimize its size, the ROI can be significant, given that the average cost of a breach is approximately $4 million,” Zohlen says. “It is easier to protect a smaller volume of information than a collection that is scattered throughout the enterprise.”

Migration to the cloud

Migration of content to the cloud presents a good opportunity to evaluate and make decisions about enterprise content. Organizations that are more mature with respect to records and content management use a cross-functional team during the process. The team typically includes legal, compliance, security and records management stakeholders, among others.

“The team should go through content the way someone does when they are moving from one house to another,” says Zohlen. “Some is trash, some is for donation, some goes to the yard sale and the remainder represents valuable content that should be retained. As content from legacy file servers, SharePoint or other content management technology is reviewed, the team should ask what information is needed for operational or legal reasons and has value, and discard the rest.”

Problems arise when an organization lacks the structures and processes to review and decide on disposition of content. “Less mature organizations potentially have not started the conversation,” Zohlen says. “They just move it all. This is short-sighted for many reasons.” Sometimes the divide is across departments. “IT tends to lean toward keeping anything the employees might need, as they often don’t know the business need,” he adds, “while the legal department sees the risk in doing that and would not agree.”

In the past, many companies were concerned about security in the cloud. Combs believes that most people now consider the cloud to be as secure or more so than on premise data. “AWS is better at security data than any organization because of the skills the managers have,” she says. “We are seeing financial services move to the cloud; in fact, FINRA is the second largest customer of AWS.” The cloud also drastically reduces deployment time for content management and process management. “We can deploy a customer’s test environment on AWS in less than an hour,” she adds.

“It is not clear to what extent migration to the cloud will drive records management,” Raouf says. “It does not make sense to move everything, but companies may not launch an effort to classify everything just because they are migrating their data. When companies start paying for storage by volume, as is the case with the cloud, there may be more of an incentive to clean up data and remove redundancy within a records management framework. But what it boils down to is whether a company is security vulnerable or legally out of compliance, and that will be a stronger driver.”

Governance and user adoption

Governance consists of an integrated set of policies, procedures and processes that operates on content. Alfresco provides an open source platform that includes enterprise content services, business process services and governance. “We are positioned as a digital business platform,” Combs says. “These functions cannot be separated. We have processes around governance services—for example, a document may need to be reviewed before it is destroyed, or the legal department may need to sign off on the destruction.”

Parts of the records management process are automated through business rules and assignment of metadata. Those rules are applied to each stage of the lifecycle, including review, hold, transfer, archive and destruction. “One of the drivers for use of Alfresco is user adoption,” Combs adds. “A previous system may not have worked out and yet the organization needs to govern its content. Alfresco assists by simplifying the process and providing invisible information governance.”

At a recent conference held by the American Records Management Association (ARMA), one of the most well-attended sessions dealt with user adoption. “Once a company has deployed a records management solution, set its policies and established review procedures, it still needs to persuade users to comply,” Combs says. “Our interface makes this a simple process—they just need to ‘save’ to the records management system and their document will be properly governed.”

Another need is to overcome the challenges of siloed information. “Organizations must be able to govern information wherever it is and not have to bring it into a single repository,” Combs says. “They need to control it whether it is in SharePoint, on file shares or in some other location.” Alfresco does not require the information to be physically stored in a single repository but can apply governance rules wherever the information resides.

Records management may be viewed as tedious, but failing to implement it puts an organization at risk. A combination of planning and judicious use of software solutions can mitigate the risk and ensure that an organization’s intellectual capital is properly protected.

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