Those in the ECM community, Risk Management, Legal, IT and the Corporate Board Rooms have discussed why we need records management. Most of the discussions center around Compliance followed by Cost Savings. There are many variations on these themes but generally they follow the same arguments. We need RM to ensure that we are not disposing of records before we are legally allowed to. We need RM to reduce our storage costs (both physical and electronic).
In writing a chapter for the new release of “Managing Records Retention and Disposal” here in the US, I tried to quantify Records Management from a simple number of documents perspective.
The general consensus is that corporate data doubles every year. This data is measured in both database records as well as general office type documents. Given that the majority of Corporate data is document based let’s take the simple example of an organization that starts off with 1,000 documents in 2003. Assuming a conservative 50% annual growth in documents, that same organization will have 17,00 documents by 2010, 291,000 documents in 2017 and nearly 5 million documents in 2024.
Granted that this is an overly simplistic example of how document growth can affect an organization, but the point is that if an organization does nothing NOW the problems that they are experiencing will only increase exponentially in the near future.
Now consider the scenario that an organization puts in place records management today and let’s assume that we have applied 7 year retention to all of their documents (excluding vital records of course). Let’s look at the document growth rate under this scenario. We start with the same 1,000 documents in 2003, then in 2010 we have just over 16,000 documents, 2017 we have 156,000 documents and in 2024 we have 1.23 million documents.
This is still a sizable repository, and one who’s growth will continue upward, but it becomes much smaller and more manageable than the uncontrolled repository.
The point is that the ability of an organization to deal with their corporate documents is directly proportional to the timing of the start of their records program. Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow will lead you down a path of greater costs to deal with the issues and an almost insurmountable number of documents to reconcile. If records metadata is not captured now at the time of creation or during an action on a document, then there is little chance of an organization going back and dealing with 291,000 documents 7 years from now, not to mention 5 million documents in the future. This pro-active stance will save your organization countless dollars in long term costs.
This also has a direct impact on your selection of an ECM system. While you may only have 17,000 documents now to deal with, you need to understand the dynamics of your ECM system when it has over a million records. Speed, performance, management of storage all play a role in how sucessful your organization will be with its ECM system in the long run. Unless you are the type that enjoys re-deploying an ECM system ever 5 years.