Effective records and retention management programs are critical to achieving compliance objectives and mitigating legal risk. However, enterprises face complex and shifting scenarios as they contend with a rapidly expanding array of digital content, significant e-discovery demands and a changing vendor landscape.

In conjunction with ARMA International, Forrester fielded a survey of more than 400 technology and strategy decision makers responsible for records management. Survey results highlight vendor and budget uncertainty, low satisfaction with current offerings, e-discovery obstacles and plans to expand deployments in 2010. Findings also show Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and hosted deployment trends and enterprise concerns.

With the changing landscape in mind, new enterprise requirements fuel an expanded emphasis on vendor evaluation. It's important for buyers across all markets to select a vendor that cost-effectively meets current and expected organizational needs while delivering on its promises, but given the high stakes in the records management market (e.g. fines, major e-discovery costs and reputation damage), information and knowledge management (I&KM) leaders need to navigate cautiously when choosing suppliers.

This is key, given two factors. Firstly, uncertainty regarding vendor selection and fragmentation will define the 2010 market. A large number of vendors provide offerings for the broad records management market. These include: Autonomy; CA; EMC; HP; IBM; Iron Mountain; Laserfiche; Microsoft; Open Text; Oracle; and others. Records management stakeholders who expect to deploy additional records management licenses or to pilot/implement new records management products next year cited these and other vendors, but nearly 29% of these users have not determined which offering that they plan to pilot or deploy in 2010.

Secondly, records managers give mixed ratings for their current solutions. Less than half of survey respondents report satisfaction with their current records management solutions, and over 13% report that they are not at all satisfied. Among survey participants employed by organizations that conduct business internationally, satisfaction rates are even lower, factoring in needs for language support, performance and synchronizing regulatory and privacy requirements. Dissatisfaction with vendor-supplied and homegrown records management solutions is a key factor leading organizations to consider alternative offerings over the next 18 months.

Gaps between RM offering capabilities and enterprise needs certainly play a role in low overall RM satisfaction. For many, however, the key shortcomings come from insufficient attention to discipline and process aspects. Technology alone won't translate to success with compliance and legal risk mitigation objectives. Effective RM deployments in SaaS, hosted or on-premise models require early engagement with internal process experts and enterprise end users, in addition to IT and legal stakeholders. Careful change management efforts in conjunction with well-considered plans for retention policies, information architecture and training, along with workflow and technology integration with archiving and e-discovery applications, all play a vital role.

Although the systematic control of records throughout their life cycle is important in maximizing profit, controlling cost and ensuring organizational vitality, for many, records managers are not viewed as strategic stakeholders. In over one-third of organizations, records managers don't have a strategic seat at the table. Including requirements definitions and vendor selection, 36% of records management stakeholders are not included in the IT strategic planning process. Effective records management can help organizations meet regulatory requirements, maintain and protect key information assets and ease e-discovery burdens. Records managers face choppy waters ahead, but must push for a strategic seat at the executive table.

BRIAN W. HILL is a senior analyst at Forrester Research, serving Information & Knowledge Management professionals. For more information on Forrester and free, related research, please visit www.forrester.com/recordsmanagement.