From an AIIM Industry Watch Report August 25, 2006 -- When it comes to compliance, the weakest link is electronic, not paper. In a new Industry Watch Study released by AIIM, the Enterprise Content Management Association, a series of questions focused on individual responsibility for retention of records, user understanding of the definition of records, and policies governing management of information. End users indicated that they are much more comfortable managing paper information than electronic information. End users indicated that they are much more comfortable managing paper information than electronic information. The study found that organizations believe compliance concerns related to information management are here to stay and are not just a passing fad. Still, the study, Compliance: It's Real, It's Relevant, and It's More Than Just Records, shows that awareness of what constitutes 'compliance' is extremely narrow. "When users view the term 'compliance' in their organizations in relation to information management, their recognition is limited primarily to government regulations (84.2%), litigation (62.1%), and paper records management (52.0%)," explains AIIM President John Mancini. "End users should be concerned about all of their critical business information and their core business processes." Other key data from the study point out: * Nearly 3 in 4 end users agree that the individuals responsible for retaining PAPER records are clearly identified in their organization versus barely half when considering retention of ELECTRONIC information. * Nearly 64% of end users believe that there is widespread understanding of what PAPER records are and how they should be retained versus 34% when considering ELECTRONIC records. * 65% of end users believe they have clear policies in place related to PAPER information in the event of litigation versus 39% when considering ELECTRONIC information. Digging a Little Deeper For most forms of important PAPER documentation, 70-80% of end users feel a high level of confidence (or at least some degree of confidence) in their systems and processes. The real compliance gap in most organizations comes when users think about how they handle ELECTRONIC information. 41.5% describing their handling of information on individual portable devices as "complete chaos." Paper Information Completely under control Somewhat under control Good intentions; limited results Complete chaos Customer documents--Application forms 34.5% 48.5% 15.4% 1.6% Customer documents--Records 35.8% 46.2% 16.5% 1.6% Financial Documents--Invoices 54.9% 37.2% 7.1% 0.8% Financial Documents--Contracts 45.4% 43.1% 10.1% 1.4% Financial Documents--Purchase orders 50.9% 39.7% 8.1% 1.4% Legal and HR documents--HR records and resumes 43.8% 42.7% 12.5% 1.0% Legal and HR documents--correspondence 36.1% 45.8% 15.5% 2.6% Operations Documents--Maintenance documentation 21.1% 48.4% 26.3% 4.2% Operations Documents--Product documentation 21.7% 47.5% 25.4% 5.4% For ELECTRONIC information, the results are far more sobering. A majority (over 50%) of end users report very weak efforts relative to: 1) Information on individual computer hard drives; 2) Information on individual portable devices (phones, PDAs, Blackberrys, etc.); and 3) e-mail. Clearly, the decentralization of information is getting more profound and more baffling by the day for those concerned about compliance, with 41.5% describing their handling of information on individual portable devices as "complete chaos." Electronic Information Completely under control Somewhat under control Good intentions; limited results Complete chaos Information on individual computer hard drives 5.5% 30.2% 39.1% 25.2% Information on individual portable devices (phones, PDAs, Blackberrys, etc.) 2.7% 21.9% 33.9% 41.5% Information on networked drives 18.3% 41.7% 27.8% 12.1% E-mail 10.9% 32.5% 31.7% 24.9% Forms 14.5% 42.2% 34.0% 9.3% Images and logos 17.3% 47.7% 26.6% 8.5% Information posted on organization web sites 27.6% 43.9% 22.6% 5.8% Organizational information accessed from home computers 21.4% 40.0% 25.8% 12.9% The message here is that the "elephant in the middle of the table" relative to compliance is electronic information. Until organizations get serious about managing electronic information, they cannot hope to get serious about compliance.