Survey: Federal Agencies Overspending on Records Management by an Average of $5 Million Annually
by Business Wire
The volume of information federal agencies must manage has outgrown their budgets, challenging the nation’s records handlers to control this deluge of information and costing their agencies more and more money. This is the central finding of a new study from MeriTalk, the government IT network, and storage and information management services company Iron Mountain Incorporated (NYSE:IRM) that asked federal records managers and finance professionals to assess the state of federal records management. The results show agencies exceed their annual records management budgets by an average of 17 percent, despite shelling out increasing sums to store and manage mounting volumes of data.
Titled “Federal Records Management: Navigating the Storm,” the online survey asked 100 federal records managers and 100 federal finance professionals in September 2012 to assess their records practices, budgets, opportunities for savings, and views on the future. Chief among the findings is each federal agency spends an average of $34.4 million per year on records management, or $5 million more than budgeted. And according to the results, those sums will only increase. Agencies expect records management spending to more than double to $84.1 million by 2015 due to an expected 144 percent increase in records per agency over that period.
The survey revealed that the chief causes of blown records budgets come from:
- Too many records – A single federal agency currently manages an average of 209 million records; government-wide, agencies manage approximately 8.4 billion records.
- Runaway information growth – The number of records per agency is expected to grow to 511 million by 2015, an increase of 144 percent over current records volume.
- Multiple information types – Agencies increasingly createrecords in more varied sources and formats. For example, 47 percent of all records are electronic, while 41 percent of records are created electronically but managed in a paper format.
- A D-I-Y approach – Sixty-two percent of federal records managers use in-house systems, but that may not be the most effective approach, as 60 percent of federal finance professionals say problems with managing records hinders agency operations.
In addition to the cost and volume pressures of managing records, federal agencies are also racing to comply with the Presidential Directive on Managing Government Records, a government-wide effort to reform records management policies and practices. The Directive, enacted in August 2012, instructs each agency to modernize its records management policies through more efficient operations, including digitizing records and establishing a new infrastructure that will minimize costs and promote openness and accountability, which form the backbone of President Obama’s Open Government initiative.
“Federal record volumes will only continue to grow, driving up budgets and making it harder for agencies to manage information on their own,” said Sue Trombley, managing director of consulting for Iron Mountain. “This growth and the added pressure from the Presidential Directive are combining to make records management very complicated and unsustainable. Most agencies know they need outside help and are looking for alternatives that include the development of a strategic plan, agency-wide collaboration and training, implementing technology solutions, and policy guidance and enforcement all aimed at regaining control for today and the future.”
When asked to name solutions for their information management problems, survey respondents cited training (43 percent), more funding (33 percent), and greater support for records management from agency leadership (32 percent). By focusing on those three factors, federal finance professionals estimate saving 24 percent of their records management budget, and records management professionals estimate the savings at 36 percent. This could mean an annual savings of $8.3 to $12.4 million per agency and between $330 million and $495 million government-wide each year.
To realize these significant cost savings, Iron Mountain recommends the following building block strategies:
- Make it an executive priority – Bring together leaders from all functions within the agency, including IT, finance, operations, legal/compliance, and security to help create, implement, and enforce a culture of records and information management compliance.
- Invest in training – Regular training and education creates a culture of accountability and responsibility for records management, helping to ensure that employees are invested.
- Smart digitization & timely destruction – A common mistake when converting paper records to an electronic format is to scan (then save) everything; instead, agencies should consider what records they have, who needs them, for what purpose, and for how long, then digitize those records first and destroy older inactive records no longer needed for compliance or business reasons.
- Where possible, streamline – Choose a process to standardize on for the entire agency, as records management programs have a better chance of success if there is agreement on common policies/practices and schedules for addressing access, retention, and other processes.
The voice of tomorrow’s government today, MeriTalk is an online community and go-to resource for government IT. Focusing on government’s hot-button issues, MeriTalk hosts Big Data Exchange, Data Center Exchange, Cyber Security Exchange, and Cloud Computing Exchange– platforms dedicated to supporting public-private dialogue and collaboration. MeriTalk connects with an audience of 85,000 government community contacts. For more information, visit www.meritalk.com or follow us on Twitter, @meritalk.
About Iron Mountain
Iron Mountain Incorporated (NYSE: IRM) is a leading provider of storage and information management services. The company’s real estate network of 64 million square feet across nearly 1,000 facilities in 32 countries allows it to serve customers around the world with speed and accuracy. And its solutions for records management, data backup and recovery, document management, and secure shredding help organizations to lower storage costs, comply with regulations, recover from disaster, and better use their information for business advantage. Founded in 1951, Iron Mountain stores and protects billions of information assets, including business documents, backup tapes, electronic files and medical data. Visit www.ironmountain.com for more information.