Federal agencies are handling more information than ever. An Iron Mountain-sponsored survey, “Navigating the Storm,” revealed that the average number of records an agency manages is expected to reach 511 million this year. That is a 144% increase since 2010. Stewardship of this information is increasingly challenging for agencies: They must keep it secure while also making it easily accessible, maintain the integrity of the record, and comply with federal records management mandates.
Information management in the federal government has reached a tipping point. Agencies need to overhaul how information — physical and digital — is approached and managed. Yet current tools and processes cannot keep up with the massive amounts of information every agency must manage. Until recently, there weren’t very many stories in the press about this important topic, which to some does not feel as urgent as cybersecurity. Storage and information management company Iron Mountain wanted to bring to light the issues their customers face.
To do this, they commissioned research this year to determine the level of confidence agency business managers and records management professionals have in their records management procedures, where they feel risk may lie, and if the two groups have similar perceptions of the status within their agencies.
Lisa De Luca, director, government marketing, Iron Mountain Government Services, has leveraged the research results to educate federal agencies, Congress and other interested parties about the risks and confidence levels in agency records. FedPulse had the opportunity to speak with her about the myriad ways Iron Mountain is using this research to educate stakeholders.
FedPulse: Can you give us a little background as to why you conducted this research?
De Luca: We have plenty of information on the status of records management from records professionals. But because federal employees at all levels create records every day, we wanted to see how that contrasted with the opinions of lines of business managers who are also responsible for records management for their agencies. By surveying both audiences, we were really able to pinpoint where differences in confidence levels around policies, training, awareness and recovery of information in disasters were. The results were very telling and pointed to areas of improvement needed.
FedPulse: Why was this type of research project important to Iron Mountain?
De Luca: Iron Mountain has been an information management services provider to the Federal Government for several decades. But the state of records management, as influenced by several drivers in the federal market such as the Records Management Directive or open data policy and reduce-the- footprint policies, is in critical need of modernization. This research allows Iron Mountain to shed light on challenges our customers face. It also gives us the ability to speak to other key agency management and Congressional stakeholders about the state of records across agency functions. This allows us to support those records professionals who are trying to create change in their agencies, and get the attention of both senior agency executives and Congressional members who can actually help with funding, oversight, resources, and better tools and training to get ahead of the challenge.
FedPulse: How are you using the results of the survey to understand your client’s needs and educate stakeholders?
De Luca: I think the differences in response have led to a better understanding of where the gaps are in agency records programs, particularly about training and awareness of the importance of real information management down to the end user in an agency. We saw that while records professionals had higher confidence levels in records within their immediate control, the lines of business managers were much less confident. And overall the “extremely confident” response in regard to the records policies working in agencies was only 15%. With all the recent news about breaches and mismanagement of agency information such as emails, the study results are timely and can support our customers’ business cases for records program improvements.
This study shed light on information management, which encompasses both cyber and physical information security practices and management, and the need for a platform we leverage with customers called information economics. Addressing security, governance and access leads to a better return on your information and its value, which leads to better productivity, transparency and insights for agencies as well.
FedPulse: There is a lot in the news right now about NARA and records management. Did you plan your research around these events, or was it a happy coincidence?
De Luca: We fielded the study in February, right before the State Department email news hit the headlines in early March. But we knew this was a timely study even before that story broke. Our corner of the federal market is in need of both agency executive management and Congressional oversight attention, and if this study sheds light on the issue and supplies our customers with the support and changes that better their programs, then we have succeeded in our endeavors.
FedPulse: You’ve done a lot with the press; what other ways are you leveraging this research?
De Luca: We have created a 4-week blog series on the topic, breaking down parts of the study. We have leveraged the link to a landing page that has the report, a whitepaper and an infographic in event and tradeshow efforts, in social media outreach, in op-ed articles and in one-on-one customer engagements. We also had an interview on WFED, the Federal News Radio station, on the Federal Tech Talk show. We did a media push, and received good coverage, including mention in a Next Gov article “Are Government Records Practices in Peril” and the ARMA’s Washington Policy Brief “Two studies show shortcomings in records practices,” among others. The ability to get recognition and coverage in the American Records Management Association (ARMA) newsletter — a major trade association in our space — got the survey and results out to a new set of stakeholders and decision makers on Capitol Hill.
Another key to success is providing our sales teams with the media coverage and stories on the study, as well as key talking points and highlights from the study so they can help their customers build stronger business cases. Finally, we created email signatures with links to the study, which every sales person uses. We have seen a spike in click-throughs to the report landing page from that alone.
FedPulse: Have you seen a good ROI?
De Luca: We have received steady media coverage since the release in May, and we are still in the early gathering stages on leads. However, we are already seeing a pipeline spike, and the study coverage has been tremendous through the press, through industry associations and our social media groups. We will be leveraging the coverage for Congressional lobbying efforts as well.
FedPulse: Anything else to add?
De Luca: The partnership with Market Connections as a third-party independent research firm was absolutely the right decision. They took the time to understand our audience and our objectives, and we have been able to capitalize on media coverage opportunities for the study as a result. Thought leadership is a key marketing tool for Iron Mountain and this study has provided the right voice in the right forum for us to be successful as a “go-to” subject-matter expert on information management.
We would like to thank Lisa for taking the time to speak with FedPulse. Download the full study, white paper, and infographic at http://www.ironmountain.com/federalrecordsatrisk.