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Survey: Federal Agencies Overspending On Records Management By An Average Of $5 Million Annually

The volume of information federal agencies must manage has outgrown their budgets, challenging the nation’s records handlers to control this deluge of information and costing their agencies more and more money. This is the central finding of a new study from MeriTalk, the government IT network, and storage and information management services company Iron Mountain Incorporated (NYSE:IRM) that asked federal records managers and finance professionals to assess the state of federal records management. The results show agencies exceed their annual records management budgets by an average of 17 percent, despite shelling out increasing sums to store and manage mounting volumes of data.

Titled “ Federal Records Management: Navigating the Storm,” the online survey asked 100 federal records managers and 100 federal finance professionals in September 2012 to assess their records practices, budgets, opportunities for savings, and views on the future. Chief among the findings is each federal agency spends an average of $34.4 million per year on records management, or $5 million more than budgeted. And according to the results, those sums will only increase. Agencies expect records management spending to more than double to $84.1 million by 2015 due to an expected 144 percent increase in records per agency over that period.

The survey revealed that the chief causes of blown records budgets come from:
  • Too many records – A single federal agency currently manages an average of 209 million records; government-wide, agencies manage approximately 8.4 billion records.
  • Runaway information growth – The number of records per agency is expected to grow to 511 million by 2015, an increase of 144 percent over current records volume.
  • Multiple information types – Agencies increasingly create records in more varied sources and formats. For example, 47 percent of all records are electronic, while 41 percent of records are created electronically but managed in a paper format.
  • A D-I-Y approach – Sixty-two percent of federal records managers use in-house systems, but that may not be the most effective approach, as 60 percent of federal finance professionals say problems with managing records hinders agency operations.

In addition to the cost and volume pressures of managing records, federal agencies are also racing to comply with the Presidential Directive on Managing Government Records, a government-wide effort to reform records management policies and practices. The Directive, enacted in August 2012, instructs each agency to modernize its records management policies through more efficient operations, including digitizing records and establishing a new infrastructure that will minimize costs and promote openness and accountability, which form the backbone of President Obama’s Open Government initiative.

“Federal record volumes will only continue to grow, driving up budgets and making it harder for agencies to manage information on their own,” said Sue Trombley, managing director of consulting for Iron Mountain. “This growth and the added pressure from the Presidential Directive are combining to make records management very complicated and unsustainable. Most agencies know they need outside help and are looking for alternatives that include the development of a strategic plan, agency-wide collaboration and training, implementing technology solutions, and policy guidance and enforcement all aimed at regaining control for today and the future.”

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