Companies' failure to recognise e-mails and messages as key documents jeopardises legal compliance

Only 21% of companies archive e-mails into their records management system or have dedicated e-mail management software, according to a recent survey by industry-association AIIM. Some 53% rely on back-up files (user-specific .pst files) instead of true archiving, and 24% admit to not archiving their e-mails at all. Just over half of companies surveyed use instant messaging in the office, with no historical records of exchanges to outside parties.

According to the AIIM survey amongst US and European users, 20% of the overall flow of unstructured data in their organisations is accessed via e-mail attachments and a further 37% is accessed from shared network drives and local hard-drives. Only 21% of this important flow of information is securely managed in central repositories.  Paper is still the basis of 21% of information processes.

When survey respondents were asked if they thought their storage strategies could survive legal scrutiny, less than half were confident that they would. Of those organisations that have retention policies for destroying records after a set time in order to limit legal disclosure liabilities, nearly 80% are ignoring them and keeping records indefinitely.

Doug Miles, Managing Director of AIIM UK, comments, Records management processes have for centuries revolved around paper documents and the physical space needed for storage. Most organisations have yet to wake up to the record-keeping implications for electronic files, in particular e-mails and instant messages. Back-up tapes are notoriously unreliable for retrieving specific documents that may be called for by auditors or legal departments. Policies need to be resolved between Records Managers and IT departments, and if necessary, investments made in information management systems.

These compliance issues will be discussed at the annual AIIM Roadshow in May, along with the potential productivity benefits from enterprise-wide ECM solutions.

The 2006 AIIM Roadshow, Unravel Your Document Processes, will visit: Edinburgh: May 8th; Manchester: 9th; Coventry: 10th; Bristol: 11th; London: 12th.

AIIM is the international association for Enterprise Content Management. It represents the information management community and supports the interests of users and suppliers of technologies and solutions used to capture, manage, store, preserve and deliver information in support of business processes.

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