Is there an Information Toxic Dump in Your Business?

 In Barbara's Blog

Does your business have computers, file cabinets, storage rooms, and offsite facilities full of unidentified documents and paper files?  If so, you probably have an “Information Toxic Dump!”  Before Bill Gates made it possible to put computers on everyone’s desk, most businesses had a records retention program – and an employee whose job description was to implement that program.

Today few businesses have or consistently implement an information retention program.  As a result, information can be found in a variety of places:

  • Computers owned by the organization
  • Personal computers owned by the employee
  • Computer networks
  • Individual offices
  • File cabinets scattered around office
  • Office storage rooms
  • Offsite storage facilities

Why Records Management Really Matters

Your ability to accomplish any task or goal is directly related to your ability to find the information you need when you need it. Research shows that 80% of the information kept in most offices is never used. Ironically, the more information that is kept, the less it is used, simply because it’s too difficult for employees to find.  Often employees can’t even find the documents they themselves created – let alone any information created by another employee – especially someone who is no longer with the organization.  As a result, it’s easier to just start over!

One of the primary reasons to utilize a records management and storage program is to safeguard important organization information and prevent identity theft of client information.  Keeping paper records that contain client information mandated by regulatory compliance is a huge risk.

Consider this quote from The Tek, a cyber security firm located in Raleigh, NC:  “What is often lost on business owners is that the cyber war isn’t being fought for YOUR data; it is being fought for your CUSTOMER’S data. It’s not about YOU! It’s about your CUSTOMERS! This is the biggest misunderstanding involving cyber awareness and protection. Yes, you must protect your business against cyber breaches and attacks but you are not protecting yourself, you are protecting your customers! If you do not have the proper protection and you expose your customers’ data to cyber criminals, odds are you will lose your business. Gary Miller, GEM Strategy Management with the Denver Post recently wrote an article stating that, “60% of all small businesses that suffer a data breach are out of business within six months.”

Who Is Responsible for the Problem and What Can Be Done About It?

The first step is for management to agree on the definition of a successful records management program.  It is important that this conclusion be reached with the involvement of  all staff, because the reality is that often management doesn’t really understand all the information that is required for staff to accomplish their work.

To create and maintain an effective records management program, every organization must answer these Seven Information Management Questions:

  1. What information should we keep?
  2. Where?
  3. For how long?
  4. Who is responsible for filing the information?
  5. Who needs access to the information?
  6. How can everyone who needs the information find it?
  7. How is it backed up?

The first question that every organization asks is “How long is this going to take?” and “How much is it going to cost?” As Mark Twain stated so eloquently, “Progress starts with the truth.”  Here’s the truth: The longer you wait, the longer it will take – and the more it will cost.   It could cost you your business!

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