Industry May 2012

Efficiency, Costs, Risk

How proper information and data-security processes help firms

With ongoing uncertainty about the economic outlook and the strength of recovery, businesses across all sectors continue to seek ways of improving efficiency and cutting costs.

While there are many measures that firms can take to protect themselves against the challenges of an uncertain and unstable economy, implementing efficient records management processes is, however, one way of both providing cost and time savings over the long-term, as well as preventing the reputational and financial damage that lost information can inflict.

Unfortunately, Japan is not just having to deal with a recession, but also with post-earthquake business continuity, plus the ever-present and growing concern that Tokyo may be subjected to an event of a scale similar to that of March 2011.

Essentially, records are the evidence of a firm’s actions and, thus, must be managed and properly maintained to comply with the laws and regulations of the countries in which they operate. Therefore, they should not be looked upon as an additional cost but, rather, a method of protecting the integrity of records and, in part, a way of reducing short- and long-term costs.

One key factor most organisations face, when trying to control or reduce their operational expenses, is the burden and fluctuation of office and facility costs. Despite the current economic uncertainty, average monthly office rents in Tokyo remain significant.

The monthly cost of outsourcing the storage of hard-copy document and electronic-media backups is far less, for example, for the contents of a typical three- to four-drawer filing cabinet, than for the 1.4m² of space it would take up in an office.

Firms can, therefore, achieve significant reductions by utilising office space for essential-use items only, and sending records off site for storage.

Careful records management protects firms from the damage and setbacks caused by data losses, thereby preserving consumer loyalty, which can be severely impacted should firms fail to keep secure personal and corporate information.

Effective records management procedures also protect firms from the legal consequences of information losses. Data breaches often lead to substantial fines, so an audit, to ensure data is not retained for longer than needed, is well worthwhile.

Such audits take into account all relevant legal and sector-specific regulations, with notifications whenever data has reached the end of its lifespan.

Finally, effective records management is a key aspect of disaster recovery and business continuity planning. Should a firm experience flooding, fire or information technology failure, any inability to get up and running quickly can prove expensive.

By ensuring that crucial information is backed up and stored in a secure location, firms can significantly improve their chances of being able to return to normal operations as quickly as possible, thus avoiding lost custom and escalating costs.

To implement an effective policy, it is crucial that organisations foster a culture in which records management and data protection are at the forefront of everyone’s mind, rather viewed as the responsibility of one person or department.

Firms should, therefore, establish stringent procedures for handling and storing information, and ensure that all employees are aware of both their obligations and the potential consequences of data losses. These procedures should cover all types of record, from electronic data and emails to hard-copy files, and should encompass clear policies on the use of devices such as USB memory sticks, as well as the transportation of data.

In addition, all sensitive electronic data should be encrypted, while hard-copy information should be securely stored and its use carefully monitored.

It’s clear that the potential cost savings and reduction of risk make records management an issue all firms must take seriously. By taking action now and implementing such control measures, firms are a step closer to ensuring they are in the best possible shape to navigate the road ahead.