Simply, the expense is only ever deferred, the work still has to be done, and doing it badly can be expensive at best, and catastrophic at worst.
The problem for funding record keeping is that the volume of records is directly related to the volume of work that your organisation engages in.
This means that as the volume goes up, the resources required by your records team to deal with the volume will also rise in direct proportion.
When a team is under-funded, the only option is to stop doing work. We can call it “reducing quality”, or use any number of other misnomers, but what we really mean is that we stop doing parts of it.
Parts that are often critical later.
Many of the runaway cost problems that we have with Freedom of Information, and discovery come from under-funding records and information management.
Case in point.
An organisation I work with is required to capture a statutory inspection form once a quarter, and undertake compliance actions if there is a problem noted on it. They receive about twenty five thousand per quarter.
A good quality process here means that the forms are all scanned, and filed with the records of the asset they relate to. This makes specific forms easy to find, and means that costs stay low when there is a problem that should have been picked up, an FOI request is raised, or a subpoena is issued.
The work the records team are expected to do though, has been rising faster than their headcount and funding.
The basic work of ensuring compliance in problem cases is still being done, but the records of inspection aren’t being scanned and associated with the asset anymore. They’re going in a box and being sent off to storage, because the time to do the extra work isn’t available, and something had to go.
The organisation still knows where the forms are are, but any future need for them will require that they’re all brought back from storage. Then it’s a case of searching for four specific, barely legible carbon copied forms among the hundred thousand that make up a year of forms.
And it’s likely to happen more than once.
That’s really expensive.
And then there are the Royal Commissions.
“Inadequate records and recordkeeping have contributed to delays in or failures to identify and respond to risks and incidents”
We should all be thinking twice before we under-fund records, or don’t fight to have it adequately funded.