High levels of document loss in European companies – survey

9 Sep 2011

Almost a third of European organisations continue to lose important documents and close to one in four organisations have no way of auditing the movement of critical business information, a new survey has found.

The Ricoh Process Efficiency Index study conducted by Coleman Parkes Research was compiled from interviews with 458 senior executives in Europe. Of six vertical industry sectors surveyed, healthcare, education and financial services were found to be the most at risk. The other sectors were legal, utilities and manufacturing.

On average, 31pc of European businesses are still prone to losing important documents. The highest occurrence was in education (38pc) whereas the legal sector was the safest of those polled, with 14pc of documents reported as lost.

Almost a quarter (24pc) of European organisations have no audit trail facilities for tracking business-critical information. Healthcare organisations were above the average at 29pc, compared with 20pc of financial services companies.

The impact of these document loss incidents ranged from business process delays (cited in 52pc of cases) to effects including damaged reputation, non-payment of invoices, loss of business-critical information, compliance breaches and dissatisfied customers.

Ricoh Ireland managing director Alan Mason said information overload would be a factor in years to come, with exponentially increasing amounts of digital information. “This ‘Big Data’ concept combined with the changing culture of the workplace mean that effective information management and compliance with document regulations is of paramount importance to organisations across all vertical markets,” he said.

“However, these findings reveal that many European organisations admit to still not managing their business-critical document processes effectively, leaving them unprepared for the future.”

Risk in heavily regulated industries

Even heavily regulated industries are at risk, the study found. In a press statement issued by Ricoh, a CIO in the healthcare industry was quoted as saying: “We work with the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and the EMA (European Medicines Agency) so all the information in our business has got to be really secure – otherwise there would be serious questions about the validity of our data.” The study found that 29pc of healthcare companies have no audit trail process for their business-critical documentation.

A CIO from the financial services sector raised the issue of being able to retrieve critical information safely and quickly. “Due to the sheer volume of documents that need to be searched through, it can be very difficult to track down what we’re looking for sometimes – this is another problem for us,” he said.

Less than half of European financial services organisations (45pc) have the ability to conduct audit trails for all confidential business-critical documents. This affects compliance with legislation like the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which mandates that organisations must ensure that business-critical documents are not altered, destroyed or misplaced.

“With so many high-profile cases of data being lost across the public and private sectors in Ireland in recent years, it’s extremely worrying that a significant number of organisations are continuing to lose critical documents,” Mason commented. “It’s also astounding that high numbers of companies have no audit process in place. This can create serious compliance issues for those at fault. The last thing that any Irish organisation needs in this climate is to be hit with significant financial penalties for non-compliance.”

Photo: Ricoh Ireland managing director Alan Mason

Gordon Smith was a contributor to Silicon Republic