If you’re familiar with records management, you know how challenging this task can be. In many organizations, records management is a department, comprised of several employees tasked with ensuring records are stored where they are supposed to be and that its lifecycle has ended, the record is destroyed.
If you don’t know much about records management systems,
According to TechTarget a records management program (RIM) is “a corporate area of endeavor involving the administration of all business records throughout their life cycle. In this context, a record is documentation of a business event. Among other possibilities, that documentation may exist in contracts, memos, paper and electronic files, marketing materials, reports, emails and instant message logs, website content, database records and information on removable storage devices.”
The first step in starting a Records Information Program is in getting support from the executive and/or upper management level. This top-down approach to the initial formation and implementation of the program is key to showing its importance throughout the organization. User buy-in and adoption is mandatory and it is much easier to attain with this support. Showing the financial and legal benefits of a program to the management team is the best way to garner this support.
How should the program look?
Once you have this upper management support in place, you then need to decide what you want the records information management program to look like. This includes deciding where within your organization structure is should reside and what resources and program structure you would like to apply.
The location within an organization could be the Auditor’s office, Administrative Services office, Compliance or Governance office, or within IT. Each location has its own set of pros and cons and is often determined by the organization department of where the program’s team member are from.
As far as what kind of team structure to pick, this is often determined by the size of the organization and amount of records there are to manage. The larger each of these components is, the more likely you will want to have a formal team, maybe dedicated to this task, with department liaisons committed to being the boots on the ground within the departments. Smaller organizations may want a team comprised of people with other duties, using their team membership as a part time commitment. At the least, there should be a single person designated as the Records Manager for the organization.
Also to consider and determine in the formation of the program is what technologies should be put into place to provide automatic management of the records. Automated systems should be evaluated to provide this functionality for both electronic records and records on other media, such as paper, microfiche, tape, etc.
Getting down to business
Once the program formation has begun, the program members should provide communications to the entire organization, informing them of the program and the commitment to the program coming from the highest members of the organization. The communications should also let users know what to expect from the team and what will be expected from them.
Then the work of the program begins. Standard best practices for implementing Records Management at an organization includes doing a Records Inventory to identify all record types or “series” within the organization. Once identified, each record must be analyzed, usually with both the owners of the records (the individual departments) and with the legal team. This analysis will be needed to determine each record’s retention policy. How long each record must be kept, when each one should be deleted, and any movement of the record that is needed during its lifecycle, such as moving to a less expensive storage location when less active and when to archive.
Don’t forget documentation and training
The key to all of these steps is documentation! You must be able to produce on demand a synopsis of all record types, and details of their retention and disposition policies. When you are involved in litigation or the government is asking for proof of legal compliance, being able to produce this information will be mandatory. The other documentation you must keep is for auditing purposes. You must be able to show that in fact you treated your records properly, in accordance with your policies. You don’t want to show up in court without being able to prove these things.
Finally, you must provide proper training to organization users on what they will need to do to help comply with the policies and procedures of the program. Once users know how important the program is to the entire organization and they start to hear about the program and its goals and structure, they will want to participate in and comply with the program’s initiatives. It will be important to enable them to do their part to help the entire organization meet its goals. Remember that everyone in the organization is responsible for Records Management. Each employee plays an important role in managing records according to the policies and procedures set up by the RIM program.
Make sure to also check out ‘Why Does an Organization Need A Records Management Program?‘