Document management at fore of Irish IT concerns

21 Aug 2003

The weight of evidence afforded by email in the Enron, AIB-Rusnak and Weapons of Mass Destruction Dossier controversies has resulted Irish public sector and private sector spending large shares of their IT budgets on document and records management, according to the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM).

According to Roger Crumpton, managing director of AIIM Europe, an average of some 60pc of the information stored on company and state agency networks is in the form of email. “The problem with this is that the majority of public sector bodies and private sector companies have no repositories in place to effectively manage or access this large volume of information.

“Email management and the management of all kinds of files and records are causing an underlying trauma at the heart of most companies today. In an era of corporate citizenship and compliance, following the scandals at AIB, Enron, Arthur Andersen and the drama surrounding the UK government and Dr Kelly, we are seeing for ourselves the weight of evidence that email represents and lots of emails are being discovered and revealed.

In the US many organisations are worried about how to manage this massive 60pc of unmanaged information, which are in effect islands of data, and the legislation that affects them, such as Patriot Act and forthcoming corporate governance legislation,” Crumpton explained.

Crumpton indicated that in the US investment house Merrill Lynch has banned all employees using instant messaging and web-based email in-house so that they can better control messages. “It is a defensive posture that reflects the tremendous concern felt by businesses in the US.”

“Emails, for example are extremely expensive and difficult to retrieve. Firms are investing heavily in coherent document and records management technologies that capture all emails as part of the corporate record. In this way they become much less liable in expensive court actions,” Crumpton said. “It’s not just about business benefit, but business liability.”

A survey of Irish businesses carried out recently by AIIM and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) found that document control and records management are topping the bill in terms of investment in information management, in particular within the government and healthcare sectors.

Business continuity and risk management are a key focus for the 100+ organisations surveyed, with a renewed focus in light of highly publicised corporate failures, an increasingly litigious and regulatory environment and the need to tighten up overall efficiency.

Some 40pc of Irish public and private sector companies said that improving efficiency was their single most important driver behind projects, with 15pc following with the need to improve customer service and the same number being driven by the need to satisfy statutory and regulatory compliance.

“Looking at the Irish IT scene right now, we are seeing a large focus on second and third generation information management projects. Last year, some 19pc of companies had budgets of €800,000 per annum. This year some 32pc of Irish organisations have this budget or more to spend, at a time when spending is down across the board,” Crumpton concluded.

AIIM and PwC will be holding a seminar on information management on 17 and 18 September at the Burlington Hotel.

By John Kennedy