The new information commissioner is determined and tough. He's taking a hard line over breaches of the Data Protection Act. And he's backing this with updated fines of up to £500,000. Anyone working in document management needs to take this matter very seriously indeed.

Volumes and complexity

Facilities managers who deal with document storage already have a lot to do. The International Data Corporation reports that unstructured content in businesses is growing by 200 per cent a year.

So it's no surprise that almost three-quarters of companies struggle to find information they own. In fact, companies complain it's easier to find data they don't own. No wonder information managers spend up to a third of their working lives on retrieval tasks.

Strategies for document management can't keep up with the physical and digital content companies produce. Too many businesses are simply bundling up work and putting it into document storage without proper referencing. Or they're shredding material they should by rights be keeping.


The information commissioner's new approach has brought these issues into focus. Companies should no longer take short-term action to keep the growing amount of content under control. Cheap and cheerful document storage business solutions and shredding may be appealing and cost-effective. But these don't address the commissioner's security and data privacy concerns.

The situation is stark. If you fall foul of the information commissioner, you face a hefty fine and negative publicity. You lose money and your reputation suffers.


But there's room for optimism. The renewed emphasis on data protection and document management is an opportunity to review procedures.

Now is the time to reassess what your company must store and what it can send for shredding. And when you opt to store information, make sure you have a cataloguing system that allows you to retrieve items fast.

There is a cost attached to this. But you gain two major benefits. You reduce the risk of data protection breaches, and your stored information becomes a readily available business asset.

It's therefore wise to review your data strategy. Ensure it covers document storage, retrieval, shredding and digital disposal. And don't forget to allow for storage growth.

Once you have a new strategy in place, make all staff aware of it. This applies whether they work at home or in the office. Everyone needs to know the importance of correct document management. This way, you minimise the risk of data protection infringement. After all, a fine of up to £500,000 is no joke.