Data.Integrity.Audit.jpgAny successful records management plan will start with a benchmark assessment of your current state.

Where are your records, what are their formats, how are they being tagged and classified, what kinds of policies are you applying to their management, and how well and consistently are you enforcing those policies? According to Top Reasons to Audit the Integrity of Your Data developed by Iron Mountain and featured by TechTarget, a key aspect of developing that benchmark assessment is to work with a trusted partner to conduct a systematic records audit, which could point to the need for a data integrity analysis.

Why? Here are 7 reasons!

  1. Establish a baseline
    The goal of auditing and analyzing your records is to allow you to establish and enforce consistent policies and management across all records, whether they are paper or electronic. Achieving this consistency is critical to meeting e-discovery and compliance requirements, enabling the organization to find the records it needs in a timely manner and applying defensible retention rules enterprise-wide. The starting point for achieving this consistency is to establish a baseline for what you have and where you are at risk. In most organizations, records are produced and saved in a variety of formats, on different systems and applications, using different media, and in a wide range of physical locations. Conducting an audit of what you have and what policies you are applying to records management will help you see where you are vulnerable and guide your next steps. 

  2. Apply consistent meta tags to all documents
    Applying consistent meta tags to all documents is critical to sound records management. Meta tags provide the information you need in order to find records of all types, to produce them quickly and to destroy them at the proper time. When you think about the integrity of your records, it is really about being consistent with meta tags across the entire enterprise. Going through the process of auditing and analyzing this function within your organization is more important than ever because of the stunning growth of electronic data being generated as well as the prevalence of new classes of unstructured data from the likes of Facebook, Twitter, email, SharePoint, YouTube and other social media platforms. The longer it takes your organization to begin applying consistent meta tags to incoming records, the more you will become buried in records that need to be fixed and the more it will cost — in time, risk and money — to go back and apply new meta tags to all of those records. 

  3. Apply consistent policies to all records
    Once you have undergone the analysis of your records and your policies and procedures for applying meta tags, you can use the audit to help establish consistent policies for all records, along with consistent methods of enforcing those policies. The audit and analysis will enable you to deploy policies that reflect all business transactions — regardless of media type or application — and address all of the key aspects of records management, including retention and destruction schedules, legal holds and data classification. This will give your organization the best opportunity to remain in compliance with all regulatory requirements and minimize the expense of e-discovery.

  4. Deploy a systematic enterprise retention schedule
    To achieve a best-practice level of compliance, it is critical that you implement a records retention schedule that is consistent across all documents — electronic and paper. An audit will help you identify all of your records and determine what retention models are being used across the organization. Retention covers both the preservation and the systematic destruction of records at the end of their business lifecycle. A huge advantage of doing an audit is that it gives you a solid starting point from which you can adjust and manage your retention schedule as compliance requirements continue to evolve. 

  5. Save money by centralizing management and eliminating silos
    A data integrity audit will tell you where you are wasting money in records management. If you are unable to identify inventory, you could be saving paper documents you shouldn’t even have — costing hard dollars, taking up physical space and opening you up to additional risk. You may also be spending much more on digital storage than is required for the records you actually need. Most companies have a problem with records being stored in a wide range of silos throughout the organization. Records may be isolated by department, physical location, computer systems or applications. In addition, if those silos include off-site records stored at multiple vendors, gaining consistency for policies and retention is nearly impossible. The source of the isolation doesn’t matter so much as the fact that having isolated records is both dangerous and costly.

  6. Reduce compliance and e-discovery risksData.Integrity.Audit.Risk._Management.jpg
    A single compliance breach or a single e-discovery inquiry could cost your company more money than the cost of an entirely new records management system. Regulators are coming down hard on companies that fail to protect confidential records, and their requirements are a moving target. Dodd-Frank legislation, for example, now requires financial services companies to retain and tag voice conversations, along with all other interactions between brokers and clients. Average e-discovery events can cost $500 million or more for lawyer fees and staff costs — in fact, one study estimates that a single case could cost upwards of $2.5 million.

  7. Build a better business case
    By auditing the integrity of your data, you will be able to build a much stronger business case for why your organization should invest in improving its records management systems, policies, governance and procedures. You will be able to show where the company is at compliance and legal risk, and what the potential costs of those risks could be. You will also be able to document where the company is wasting money in storage of physical records and digital storage solutions used to manage and retain electronic records. You can identify how storing records in silos across the organization is impacting costs, productivity and efficiency. Keep in mind that the cost of noncompliance is three times more expensive than the cost of compliance.