Risk management in RM: addressing the problem of unmanaged paper documents

Posted by TAB on

The organizers of ARMA 2013 did a great job bringing in thought-provoking and informative speakers this year. One of those was Larry Ponemon from the Ponemon Institute, a research group that focuses on privacy, data protection and information security policy.

In his talk at ARMA, Ponemon revealed some surprising insights about the state of paper document management. Interviewing professionals in the fields of IT, records management and privacy, Ponemon learned that over half of those surveyed believed that someone else was responsible for managing paper documents.

The findings suggest a significant governance issue: if no one knows who is responsible for paper documents, chances are they aren’t being managed as they should be. And when that’s the case, the organization is at heightened risk of compliance, privacy or litigation issues. In an interview after his presentation, published on TechTarget, Ponemon offers a two-part solution to the problem. The first part is to establish ownership of paper documents at the highest levels of an organization, such as with the security or compliance officer.

The second part is to make sure that you have the same oversight and control over paper documents that you do with electronic documents. As Ponemon points out, this is the tricky part – and to do it successfully you must employ a technology solution such as records management software.

Records management software is the key.

TAB has encountered this challenge countless times in our work with organizations ranging from small medical practices to Fortune 100 giants. Paper documents are difficult to manage, but it is possible with the help of records management software.

How does it help?

Records management software helps you create an inventory of paper documents through bar coding and scanning tools. With that in place, you can then track the location of paper documents and determine who has possession of them at any given time. Records management software also helps you apply retention schedules to paper documents so that they can be disposed of when they are no longer required for operational or legal purposes. Together, these features make it easier to avoid paper documents getting into the wrong hands or being retained longer than necessary, which could expose your organization to legal or compliance issues.

A comprehensive program for managing paper document security will naturally include other tools and processes, such as purging programs and physical security measures. However, these are incomplete without a software tool to provide oversight and day-to-day management of paper documents.

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