We have triumphantly entered the era of the Big Data. There is no turning back now; the world has already been 'datafied'. There might have been setbacks, but the process that has already started cannot be stopped. Just like everything else that radically transforms, what existed before the collection of huge data sets that we named big data came to be the most elaborate way of managing information.
Information came to be a key term in terms of explaining the world and how it functions today. Everything seems to go around it; information and the way we manage it is an essential matter of governance. Governments, businesses and institutions need to handle data carefully in order to guarantee their own well-being. As is happens often, it seems that public institutions are lagging behind, compared to private firms and companies that have embraced our new 'datafied world' with more nerve and eagerness.
Governments too are slow to react in many cases, such as in several lagging-behind member states of the European Union. In these situations, the bureaucratic system is usually slow to respond by default. This is why the recent effort by the U.S. government concerning the managing of government records sounds as good news to my ears.
The truth is that the U.S. is ahead of Europe when it comes to implement policies that concern our constantly changing datafied world. Now President Obama wants all Federal records to be digitized by 2019! The transition from paper to electronic record-keeping that must respect also the rules and regulations imposed by the government won’t be an easy task. On the other hand, they are at least trying to improve and this is really good news.
A recent study showed that there are still a lot of things to be done. The research was conducted by MeriTalk, a public-private partnership with the aim to assist and improve government IT efforts, and data management company Iron Mountain. Iron Mountain is U.S.’s leading expert on information and records management technology. Iron Mountain’s confidential waste services are also an essential part of the company’s expertise.
According to this study, less than one out of five Federal records management professionals feel confident to handle the new challenges on federal records management. At the same time, around 75% of them feel strongly positive about the Presidential Directive on Managing Government Records. They think that it will modernize information management by enabling high-quality records. The deadlines are a matter of a different nature, though; but, as we've previously mentioned, there is a relatively strong wave of confidence on whether the goals set up by the Presidential Directive are realistic. As a matter of fact, 92% of respondents feel that their agency cannot meet overnight with the requirements for such an important change on records management. Thus, there should be more time and care allocated to the initiative that everyone seems to support.
What is more, Federal records professionals cite two factors that in their opinion could potentially prove very helpful in improving the way Federal records management is currently managed by agencies and institutions. 53% of the survey respondents believe that better-trained records management personnel is vital to this effort, while 51% think that, if supported by more funding, the future of federal records management could look brighter.
Nothing changes overnight. This is even more truthful in policies that aim to radically transform the way everyone used to handle things. The digitizing of all Federal records is a step towards the future. The future will be all digitalized and this is a reality that cannot be neglected, but only slightly postponed.

As for the deadline that is expected not to be respected my guess would have been that this won’t affect the course of things that much. In a vast number of key projects deadlines are last to be strictly respected; what matters is for the job to be done appropriately… We hope for the best!

It’s certainly not long since we envisioned for the first time a “paper free” future. With the advent of the digital era we became confident that the times when we had to cut down trees in order to communicate or do business as usual were long gone. However, just like flying cars, this prediction, or wishful thinking - if you'd like - hasn’t been fully realized. As a matter of fact, we still have a lot to do concerning the digitization of every day life’s activities and procedures. As for the flying cars, I admit I haven’t heard anyone talking about them since a while ago… but it does not mean that hope is lost!
AIIM (Association for Information and Image Management) is a non-profit organization that aims to tackle the issue of the slow advance towards a paperless future. AIIM organized a “Paper Free Day” on the 24th of October 2013 and revealed facts and figures about the slow digitization of businesses.
Let’s start with a somehow shocking fact: according to the data complied and presented by this organization, 19% of businesses have actually witness an increase in their paper flowing! On the contrary, 41% of organizations declared a decrease in the amount of paper used. The fact that one out of five organizations in the year of 2013 is actually using more paper than before is quite alarming.
According to AIIM, by removing paper, businesses will increase effectiveness. Therefore, apart from the urgent environmental issue that concerns protecting the planet by saving the trees, the switch to the wholly digitized era will increase effectiveness for any type of business. In that sense, there is absolutely no excuse for businesses not to make use of the benefits that the digital era gave birth to.
Most respondents to AIIM’s study believe that a paper free procedure can only mean a faster way of processing stuff. In other words, speed and effectiveness combines can guarantee business continuity and growth - it’s that simple!
In a different survey conducted by Iron Mountain (an expert in data protection and software escrow, among other services) has revealed that only one in ten European employees can describe their workplace as “paper free”. Well, that is undoubtedly a very disappointing figure, if we consider that in other (less developed) regions of the world the figures will surely be even lower.  
Iron Mountain recommends a “paper light” approach, as it is impossible to expect all business to go paper free. A “paper-light” approach is the process of digitizing documents that are frequently needed, while moving other paper documents into off-site storage sites.
Iron Mountain’s survey also informs us that 77% of the invoices that arrive in a company in PDF actually get printed. Reading these percentages, it makes you wonder: what happened to the digital revolution?
Finally, in yet another similar survey by ARX Inc. we get quite similar results. Apparently, 84% of UK businesses print documents just to get them signed in what it seems to be a waste of resources. Moreover, over 30% of organizations lose more than one day in order to collect necessary physical signatures! According to the findings of the survey, this happens because most people believe that physical signatures are more secure than digital signatures.
To sum up, even if we might be living in the so-called digital era, and we tend to be proud about it, we still don’t do much in order to take advantage of what this digital revolution has to offer to us. From bragging about something to actually change the habits and the decades-long practices takes some effort, after all.
Realizing the fact that a radical and sudden change - going paper free, that is - is not always an easy task, one can only hope that businesses and the people that make them will try their best in order to use fruitfully everything that modern technology has given to us… so, while dreaming of the day when flying cars will exist, let's not make paper airplanes instead and throw paper out of the window! It's just like throwing out oxygen away!

    John Knoxell

    I am an independent consultant and freelance writer who has had working experience in a variety of industries in Europe.

    My research is focused on Data Protection, IT systems technologies and management. When I write I keep in mind that I don’t deal with experts but with everyday people that face everyday problems in their businesses. I can offer thoughts and ideas that can bring solutions.


    November 2013


    Digital World
    Information Governance
    Software Escrow