The art and discipline of supervising an organization’s records and information management (RIM) is well established with a very well defined set of benefits to an organization. Most narratives defining the process will cite legal compliance, safeguarding information, reducing operating costs, controlling the growth of record storage, improving productivity, and various other benefits as drivers to successfully managing the organization’s records.
Establishing policies for effective records and information management is an idea that has been around a long time and it has provided benefits to many organizations that understand the importance of Records Management. And that’s as far as some organizations get. They have policies in place, they have procedures in place, and they expect their employees to follow them in order to gain the benefits they are trying to achieve. Some organizations take that a step farther though.
For some organizations, it is not enough to simply have policies and procedures in place for records and information management. These organizations, whether corporations, government entities, or charitable groups, create and implement a formal program for the management of their records. This program, often called a Records Information Management or “RIM” program, is an entity or component within the organization. So instead of these policies being self-managed by individual users, they are managed through the program itself, which is established for exactly that purpose.
The program itself can take on many different forms and will be different from one organization to another. It is generally a part of the organization’s Governance and/or Compliance areas. Sometimes, it is a full-time team that has been assembled to manage the program. Sometimes it is a team consisting of a single Records Manager. The team’s functionality is sometimes disbursed throughout the individual user departments. Most often it is a combination of a central team managing the program and coordinating with individual user liaisons within each of the user departments. The records and information management team can be staffed with full time employees whose only function is the program itself, or the teams are assembled from staff within the organization whose main duties are tasks elsewhere and who convene as a team to also manage the program.
However its makeup is within the organization, it has a couple key ideas that are central to its successful implementation:
Keys to a successful Records and Information Management Program
- Executive Team Support – The program must be supported top-down within the organization for it to be formed in the first place and to show the rest of the organization its importance. User buy-in is critical and there is no better way to attain that than by a mandate from the highest levels to emphasize it as being a key component to the organization’s goals.
- Consistent Communication – Emails, newsletters, blogs and postings of program initiatives and status are key to maintaining forward momentum within the program and show program viability and success.
- Ongoing, consistent coordination of effort – Regular in-person or virtual team meetings or gatherings, along with internal team communications are critical to maintaining consistent implementation and focus within the team.
- Formal, documented policies and procedures – The program needs to publish and maintain a guide of approved policies and procedures to communicate to departmental users and to use by team members to execute the duties of the program.
- Audit – The program must have its own audit procedures set up to provide metrics on compliance and documented program benefits attained.
Why is it needed?
Okay, so that briefly describes what a RIM program is, but why is it so important for an organization to have one?
One main reason is simply that records and information management is so important to an organization, and it can be managed most effectively with a formal program in place. With people dedicated to its ongoing implementation, it is much more likely to succeed and meet the goals of properly maintaining the organization’s records. When you identify who is responsible for its results, there is accountability to its members and further incentive to execute its initiatives fully in order to help the organization to meet its goals.
It also solidifies the mandate from the executive team as to the importance of Records Management. Instead of just following best practices of managing records, having a program makes a statement that doing these things is important and upper management feels that way so much that they established a formal program for it. It helps to foster a culture of awareness towards Records Management.
In addition, it provides improved organizational documentation. Documentation of what the record policies are and how they are executed. It helps to maintain any updates to the policies. It helps with verifying proper record retention and disposition, and can more efficiently provide audits of all activities regarding the organization’s records. Centrally focusing on these initiatives helps to ensure they are carried out and properly documented. Proper records and information management is a duty of all employees within an organization. Plus, the program can help each employee meet their obligations and contribute to the goals of the organization.
Make sure to also check out How to Start a Records Information Management Program