SA Businesses not geared up for legislative requirements of Information Management

Despite SA information and records management solutions being on par with that of global standards, many local businesses fail to recognise the importance of effective records management.

January 22, 2013

Despite South African information and records management solutions being on par with that of global standards, many local businesses fail to recognise the importance of effective records management despite multiple legislative requirements governing this critical business component.

This is according to Guy Kimble, Managing Director at Metrofile – a group company of JSE-listed Metrofile Holdings Limited – who says, following his return from the global PRISM (Professional Records and Information Services Management) International conference, that security of information, confidentiality and security breaches are among the core areas of focus internationally. “Many South African businesses are still in the starting blocks when it comes to implementation of effective records management solutions that ensure compliance with legislation governing information management and protection.”

He says globally there has been a noticeable shift to ensure information that is stored and archived is safeguarded against both physical and electronic threats. “This has mainly arisen from litigation processes that could face organisations, meaning that the reasons for records management have moved from the historic purposes of simply storing boxes to that of risk mitigation.”

“Having records readily available should an organisation face a legal issue can mean the difference between resolving a dispute quickly or potentially running up thousands of Rands in legal fees. An effective records system that enables instantaneous retrieval of important documentation can end up saving an organisation a significant amount of money in the long run.”

He says in addition to this, it is becoming increasingly important for businesses to purge unwanted information or documentation in a way that ensures that the organisation complies within regulatory requirements such as the Protection of Personal Information Bill which specially stipulates that any documentation containing personal information must be effectively destroyed in order to protect the identity of the person’s information.

The business of records management has moved rapidly into the electronic age and those companies that are still grappling to come to terms with their own Information Technology (IT) infrastructure, will battle to remain purposeful in the years to come, says Kimble.

He says the larger multinational corporations have already implemented or begun to incorporate effective records management systems into their risk mitigation strategies as their global counterparts have had to ensure compliance with international regulations. “Smaller to medium sized companies are often at most risk as they tend to wait until it is absolutely necessary to have this in place. However, every single business, from a one-man operation to a multinational, needs to implement an effective, fit-for-purpose records management programme or risk being exposed to legal, financial and reputational repercussions.”

Kimble says one of the key challenges facing businesses when it comes to records management is doing nothing until it is too late. “By only implementing an effective records management solution once the need arises – for example in the case of a law suit or audit – the company may end up spending far more to resolve the problem than to implement a “fit for purpose records management solution”

He adds that businesses can become paralyzed with the perceived complexity of records management solutions available, most of which have ‘bells and whistles’ that are not always necessary for the organisation’s specific needs. “This is a huge problem as most organisations do not fully understand exactly what is required for effective records management and do not take the time to appoint someone to analyse and consult the organisation’s specific requirements. Consequently, they end up failing to take adequate steps to determine what is needed, instead simply purchasing products that are unsuitable to the needs of the business and wasting not only money but valuable employee time.”

“However, effective records management does not have to be that complex if the business takes the time to work with an experienced and specialised information and records management company that can provide a tailor-made, fit-for-purpose, simple and cost-appropriate solution specific to the business’ needs,” concludes Kimble.