Forrester Research / ARMA International Survey 

Survey Says:
Expect Big RM IT Investments,
Program Challenges 

A mid-2012 survey of more than 350 records management (RM) decision-makers indicates that major RM adoption plans figure prominently. In the fourth annual Forrester Research and ARMA International Records Management Online Survey, Q3 2012, 71% of RM leaders report current expansion efforts or plans to implement RM technology (see Figure 1).

Brian Hill

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In the context of this growing market, survey results highlight three key factors:

  1. Decision-makers have big spending plans. Despite the current economic slowdown, 40% of our survey respondents expect that their organization’s overall RM spending will increase at least 5% from 2012 to 2013 (see Figure 2). Upgrades to existing deployments, new on-premises RM applications, and consultant and integrator costs lead the list of planned expenditures.
  2. Buyers expect to source from a wide range of suppliers, but Microsoft stands out. In a fragmented field, 31% of respondents anticipating RM purchases plan to source from Microsoft. Among those with Microsoft RM plans, however, 37% expect to augment Microsoft SharePoint with an integrated third-party vendor application for RM.
  3. Records managers will pursue multiple pressing issues in bolstering their programs. In the next 12 months, 81% of decision-makers consider improving RM policy consistency to be an important objective for their organization (see Figure 3). In addition to standardizing and simplifying policies, respondents expect strong focus on traditional RM compliance and information access objectives. Reflecting increasingly strong RM-IT team ties, approximately 70% of respondents state that applying RM technology to reduce storage growth and to apply controls to additional content types and applications will be important in the coming year.

RM Frustrations Are Formidable

In line with results from the past two years, about half of records management stakeholders report satisfaction with their RM applications (see Figure 4). Application shortcomings certainly can be challenging, but decision-makers state that these rank relatively low in their list of woes. Instead, they rate insufficient budget, lack of executive attention, limited integration with key applications, and staff, training, and organizational shortcomings as top obstacles to RM program success (see Figure 5).

Especially in economically turbulent times, budget constraints can pose huge obstacles across a variety of enterprise programs. Reflecting the growing importance of RM in many organizations, it’s encouraging that survey respondents expect an increase in RM spending over the next year. Focusing on the next three most challenging elements provides insight into difficult scenarios faced by many RM leaders:

  1. Many executives don’t focus on RM. Often executives perceive RM to mainly be a dusty cost center – many see RM as a mix of warehouses, technologies, and a set of complex, costly steps requiring their reluctant attention due to compliance mandates. Twelve percent of records managers report that RM programs have no C-level or senior executive support within their organization. Certainly, RM has a long history of enabling organizations to meet their compliance obligations, but RM technology combined with solid defensible disposition practices can go a long way toward targeting IT objectives (e.g., trimming storage growth) and legal needs (e.g., cutting e-discovery cost and complexity).
  2. RM programs struggle with integration gaps. Nearly two-thirds of records managers cite lack of integration with key applications as a major challenge to their RM program efforts. Limited application links between RM and e-discovery, archiving, and other tools frustrate potential for standardized retention, disposition, and other policy-based controls across multiple content and application types. Also piecemeal, disjointed approaches add to overall information archiving risk and costs. A series of ad hoc handoffs between different tools for physical RM, electronic RM, message archiving, tools supporting different steps in the e-discovery process, and other applications invite error, increase costs, limit effective responses, and thwart proactive planning.
  3. Skill set, training, and organizational shortcomings impede RM efforts. So, if you have strong executive support and a high-quality, appropriately integrated RM application, your program should be all set, right? No, that’s not the case. RM leaders also report big challenges in hiring personnel with appropriate skill sets, overcoming cultural and training barriers, and getting appropriate organizational support. Recognizing shortages in staff with appropriate skill sets, it’s encouraging that ARMA International and other organizations are rolling out information governance certification programs.

The Cloud Won’t Wash Away Woes

Enterprise adoption of software-as-a-service (SaaS) and other cloud computing technologies continues to expand at a rapid clip., Google, and other vendors providing cloud-based applications tout lower cost, more rapid deployments, and other advantages vis-à-vis traditional on-premises applications.

Recognizing this market shift and following executive guidance, many U.S. federal government agencies are headed down a cloud-first policy path with key enterprise applications. Adoption of cloud-based RM, however, lags in both government and commercial enterprises. Overall, only 8% of records managers report that their organization leverages or is currently expanding RM SaaS and few are actively planning to do so (see Figure 6).

What’s behind limited adoption and planning for cloud-based RM? Security, privacy, and legal concerns top the list for adoption barriers (see Figure 7). Potential integration and functionality shortcomings also inhibit adoption, but one-quarter of survey respondents aren’t interested in this deployment model because they perceive their existing on-premises records management application meets their current and near-term needs.

E-Discovery Confidence Is Low

Records managers report abysmally low e-discovery confidence. Only 12% of survey respondents are “very confident” that, if challenged, their organization could demonstrate their electronically stored information (ESI) is accurate, accessible, complete, and trustworthy. This bleak data point represents an even lower e-discovery
confidence rate than captured in past surveys.

E-discovery requirements aren’t new. Grim e-discovery confidence figures paint a picture with considerable potential for risk and cost stemming from litigation and investigation. Surging volumes and varieties
of ESI can certainly challenge enterprise e-discovery efforts, but survey data show that integrated legal hold – a critical component needed for successful defensible disposition – is simply missing in many organizations.

To ensure the preservation of relevant ESI, enterprises are required to suspend their routine retention/destruction policies upon reasonably anticipating litigation or investigations. Yet, in line with prior survey results, only 45% of stakeholders in the 2012 survey reported their current RM application supports legal hold natively or via packaged third-party integration. Others state their application does not support legal hold, they don’t know if it does, or they simply don’t use the included functionality (see Figure 8). Ad hoc, manual approaches to legal hold can translate to errors, inadequate consistency, and unnecessary legal risk.

Importantly, insufficient links between RM retention and disposition functionality often lead to digital landfills. Organizations aren’t sure of the business value or legal obligations to preserve content so they simply continue to accumulate digital debris, slowing down overtaxed systems, adding to storage costs, and posing potential additional litigation and investigation burdens over time.

Decision-Makers Get the Principles

To capture RM benefits, decision-makers need to clearly understand program components, supporting technologies and processes, and organizational requirements. They also must incorporate RM controls and concepts into plans for new systems. While records managers report strong understanding of the former, they note traction with the latter lags.

Working with leading practitioners, ARMA International developed the Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles® in 2009. The principles of accountability, integrity, protection, compliance, availability, retention, disposition, and transparency provide a framework for guidance in implementing information management programs. The Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles® provide records managers with a common language and approach to a solid program, a model for program development, a benchmark against peers, and a legislative and judicial roadmap to best practices.

A whopping 85% of survey respondents report they are familiar with the Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles® (See Figure 9). ARMA International educational outreach efforts have certainly generated results. Forrester clients describe using this approach to see how they stack up with comparable enterprises and to measure their progress. The Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles® give records managers a good tool to do so and articulate appropriate program steps to other stakeholders in their organizations.

Influence Is Still a Struggle

Records managers have a long legacy focusing on physical assets. Nearly 80% of respondents report current and planned use of technology to enforce retention, disposition, and other RM controls for physical records. About two-thirds also describe comparable usage and intentions for document management, e-mail, and file systems, and an increasing number are targeting structured data applications.

Despite stakeholder plans to apply appropriate controls to these and other content and application types, respondents describe a different story in the relative importance of RM considerations in rolling out new systems. Only 8% of records managers state RM considerations have strong impact on what technology to acquire and how new technology is implemented (see Figure 10). Records management leaders are often playing catch up – less than 5% are very confident their organization has incorporated RM requirements in adopting or planning for cloud-based services or storage solutions, social media, or mobile devices.

Records managers note support from chief information officers, senior legal team leaders, and other executives. While this support is encouraging, it isn’t especially deep in many organizations. Only 13% of records managers report they have strong influence with peers in improving their organization’s information archiving and governance posture.

Collaboration Is Key

Despite RM program frustrations, decision-makers expect to ramp up investments over the next year. They’ll do so to target traditional RM compliance and information access objectives, but are increasingly using RM to stem the surge of growing digital landfills. While decision-makers expect to apply RM controls across a broader set of content and application types, they can’t tackle everything at once. RM leaders will need to work closely with senior IT and legal executives to see where their organizations can get the biggest gains for their efforts.

Systematically ranking and quantifying which systems are top candidates for RM controls from IT cost savings and legal risk and expense is critical. Yet, records managers will need to make sure they don’t get caught up in an unfortunate cycle of catch-up. RM leaders need to make stronger organizational strides to ensure that RM considerations are addressed in technology acquisition and implementation.

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Brian W. Hill can be contacted at

From September - October 2012