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7 Strategies for Incorporating a File Plan into your ECM Implementation

As a follow-up to my post Why a File Plan should be part of your ECM Implementation, I would like to address two additional questions based on the tremendous amount of feedback and discussion that post generated.

  1. Why isn't the File Plan implemented when ECM is implemented?
  2. What strategies can be used to implement Records Management after ECM has been implemented?

I will acknowledge that my perspective is from the ECM standpoint, and implementing an ECM solution first.  Perhaps another post will be the reverse; How to implement ECM after Records Management.

Based on the feedback that I got from my original post, it seems that most people agree that Records Management and ECM are not typically implemented under the same project.  Why?

  1. ECM initiatives are often such large projects in themselves that it is not practical to incorporate additional business solutions, even if they may be complimentary.
  2. ECM initiatives are often initiated by IT or by departments that do not have Records Management.
  3. Information Governance is not a priority for the organization.
  4. The Records Management function in the organization is weak, and if it does exist, there is not widespread adoption of it.
  5. Many organizations view the need for Records Management on electronic content as a lower priority than it was on physical records.  Electronic storage is cheaper than physical storage, and they can always archive later.  Read more about ROT data here.

There are many more reasons, so the list is long.  In summary, we know that even though these are complementary technologies, they are not typically implemented at the same time.  It seems to be a challenge both ways; whether you implement ECM first or Records Management first. 

If these technologies are not going to be implemented together, the more relevant question may be; How to get a File Plan and Records Management implemented after your ECM implementation is complete?

Here are some strategies that can be used:

  1.  Start the conversation early 

    Don't wait until your ECM implementation is completed to begin the discussion about Records Management.  When you are designing the Taxonomy for the ECM implementation, ask about the File Plan.  Ask if a Records Manager should be involved.  Ask about the retention and disposition of the content.  These leading questions will at least set the stage for the importance of Records Management.

  2. Make retention policies part of your storage projections 

    Proper Records Management can have a positive impact on the storage architecture.  Do you want to keep these documents forever?  If it is a high-volume ECM implementation, what are the storage requirements in 5 years? 10 years?  Yes, storage is relatively cheap now, but it still has a cost.  Not to mention the cost of non-compliance on that content.

  3. Records Manager stakeholder

    Ask for a Records Manager to be involved in the project, ideally as a stakeholder or at least in an advisory role.

  4. Information Governance

    Ask who is in charge of Information Governance.  Explain the importance of Information Governance and how it can benefit the ECM solution.

  5. Ask to see their File Plan

    There may not be a File Plan for the content involved in the ECM implementation, but this opens the door for you to talk about the importance of a File Plan and to find out if other parts of the company are guided by Records Management policies.

  6. Request an Information Governance advisory committee 

    Ask if this committee can be part of your project in an advisory role.  This committee would contain representatives from legal, records management and the business unit.  The purpose of the committee is to be involved in key design components of the project and to bring an Information Governance perspective to decisions affecting the content that is being stored.

  7. Project closure

    If you have not had the opportunity to discuss Records Management during the project, it should at least be mentioned when you wrap-up the project and discuss potential future enhancements.  How do they plan to maintain the content?  Grow the storage architecture?  Keeping the content indefinitely is a risky strategy.

These strategies are a first step in complementing an ECM implementation with a File Plan and Records Management.  There can be challenges to implementing Records Management as a separate project, but if you find a solution that will enable you to manage your records in-place, you can avoid a costly migration, and provide a smooth transition for your users.

By Julie Lintner

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