November 21, 2014

Steps to RIM Success

6 minute read

#1 - Know where your information resides

When I first started learning about leadership I read a lot of John Maxwell books and I always remember him talking about what he calls “The Law of Process”. Phase 1 of this law was “I Don’t Know What I Don’t Know.” It’s the same way with information, if you don’t know where it is, how would you ever expect to manage it?

Go find your information! There’s a little more to it than that, but you do need to start the discovery process. There’s not one single answer to this process in every organization, but at RecordLion, we like to start with person(s) in each department that create, modify and store most of the information. Also, unless the department only has physical data, you’ll want to have information technology involved, specifically someone that knows the systems the department uses.

Let’s take accounting, for example:

  • You’ll want buy in from the CFO, but it’s very likely they’ll have no idea where the information is.
  • Find the person who interacts with the accounting system… entering invoices, creating POs, etc.
  • Also, find out who knows where banking, budget and the rest of financial information is.
  • Ask (IT) about the structure and how to interact with this data.
  • Ask the owners (departmental) if they store the information anywhere else. 99% will say yes, my desktop computer (or some other simple place to save files), and 50% of the time the responsible IT person will have no idea they actually did this.
  • Ask (or ask to be shown) how the physical records are stored.

#2 - Build your File Plan / Retention Schedule

Many organizations begin their Information Governance initiatives by building a File Plan and if you already have this done you’re a step ahead and this step is much easier, however you’ll still need to get back to step 1 eventually. The thing about File Plans is it is often not feasible to implement them for a variety of reasons. Although I’d recommend getting help on all these steps, I highly discourage trying to create a File Plan without professionals. If you need some help finding a professional, you can contact us and we’ll help match you up with the right firm for the job.

When a File Plan is properly created, it will indicate the retention policies that need to be applied to all the information in your organization. A good plan will consider regulative, legal and corporate needs and determine the optimal retention periods. I do want to make one plug for RecordLion Information Lifecycle here and say that we can include all needs and create a lifecycle to guarantee information meets regulative, legal and corporate needs, even as these policies change over time.

#3 - Match your File Plan to your Information

Steps to Success Meta DataOnce you have identified your information and created a file plan it’s time to start matching your information to that plan. A good content rules engine will have the ability to match on most of the entities of your data store. Here are some of the entities to make sure an engine supports when looking at solutions:

  • SharePoint – Sites, Libraries, Content Types, Folders and Column Values
  • File Shares – Folders, Sub Folders and File Names
  • Email – Mailboxes, Public Folders and Private Folders

In addition you should ensure that manual classification is also possible for exceptions that do not match any rules.

NOTE: Although this article isn’t about building a proper information taxonomy, a good structure will make classification much easier. You may even find that it is easier to make some changes to your taxonomy in order to differentiate between information that is either stored in the same location or shares the same Meta data.

NOTE: In addition to records that need to be put on disposition and tracked, you may also want to consider classifying non-records in order to report on how much of this information exists in your organization and to prevent records from falling into the abyss of unmanaged content.

#4 - Create triggers to start the retention period specified in your File Plan

In order for the retention periods specified by the File Plan to begin, triggers will need to be created and configured. This is also known as “cutoff” and is the critical point at which information enters into a new phase in its lifecycle. For years Records Management systems used dates almost exclusively as the trigger, and that worked reasonably well in a paper based environment, but with electronic information existing any multiple stores throughout the enterprise, it is very important to allow triggers to be event based. Event based triggers, in general, can be of two different types, recurring and external. Recurring events, as the name states, can reoccur indefinitely giving a time period (such as day, month or year). External events are essentially transactions, activities or other events outside the records system such as employee hired/terminated, account close or contract expired that would cause retention periods to begin.

#5 - The 3 Ms - Monitor, Measure and Modify

The system has been built and the implementation was successful, so what’s next? Try to remember the three M(s); Monitor, Measure and Modify. A records system, like any other system is only as good as what can be measured and proven. It is important to show legal, executive and other parties needing to know the necessary information that prove your system is working. Some of the more important KPIs that are important are:

  • Is there data that is not being classified that should be managed?
  • Is the volume of new information being classified reasonably close to a given base line?
  • Is the right amount of information being declared as official records?
  • Are disposition approvals being approved, or simply being ignored?

And finally, the third M, Modify. There is no such thing as a records systems that is only configured one time and the left to just execution. Regulative rules will be constantly changing and new regulations will always be created. Records Managers will need to stay on top of these change to ensure that data is being kept for the right amount of time. In addition, new types of information will consistently be created in every organization. Consider that Email was not explicitly named as a category for EDiscovery until 2006, the same year Facebook was made available to the general public and you can imagine that within your career in the records industry that technology will drastically change requiring new processes to manage information.

Steps to Success - Reports

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