April 29, 2016

How Solid is Your Records Management Program?

4 minute read

This post comes by way of a guest author, Jim Merrifield IGP,CIP. Jim is a Records & Information Governance Manager at Robinson+Cole, LLP, an Am Law 200 firm, where he is a member of the Data Privacy and Security team. He is also Co-founder of The Information Governance Conference (InfoGovCon), an Information Coalition event.

Many organizations invest countless hours, money and resources to implement a records management program. The hope is that it’s sustainable and can stand the test of time. Much to the organization surprise, most records management programs tend to weaken as time goes on and eventually fade away. The reason is that the program is not build on a solid foundation. It’s a lot like building a house. If the foundation of the house is built on bad soil, the house will run the risk of collapsing completely or needing some sort of future costly reconstruction. How much better it would be to build a house on good soil and avoid any unnecessary problems.

How can you tell if your records management program is solid? This article will discuss four thought provoking questions that any organization no matter the size can use to perform a self-evaluation.

What do you keep and for how long?

A records management policy document outlines how an organization manages its information from creation to disposition or the entire lifecycle of a document. How long a document is kept will depend on your organizations legal and operational requirements. For example, a financial institution will need to comply with Sarbanes-Oxley, SEC (Securities Exchange Commission) and others, while a pharmaceutical organization will focus its attention on FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) and FTC (Federal Trade Commission) regulations. In any case, this policy document should address both hard copy and electronic documents.

Can you find what you need?

The success of an organization’s records management program will depend much on the ability to find the right information when needed. This is especially true when producing documents for a discovery request in litigation. According to one recent report, law firms often spend over $100,000 each month fulfilling eDiscovery requests for clients. In addition, eDiscovery can account for 70% of any legal action or lawsuit. Therefore, the faster an organization’s retrieval rate equals a higher return. How is your organization doing?

Are you executing on disposition?

This is the part of the records management program that is often neglected and forgotten. Why is this the case? People are hoarders by nature and have a really hard time letting go of their information assets. So, the easy thing to do is to do nothing and keep everything forever. Quite frankly, that is what most organization’s do until the cost of storage is too high or a failure of non-compliance is issued in court.

The bottom line is if an organization has a policy, it must execute the policy on a consistent basis. It’s not good enough to dispose of information one year and then doing nothing the next. If an organization does this, it is trending on thin ice and will eventually get caught. Yes, consistency is the key when executing your retention program. If there is no execution, why even have a policy in the first place!

Do your employees know about your program?

In order to realize the benefits of a records management program your entire organization must know the program exists. This seems silly, but it does happen. The key to avoiding this problem is to train your employees often and make it interactive. Organizations can do this by means of emails, on-demand videos, group and one-on-one meetings. The format chosen will depend on the organization’s culture and more often than not result in a hybrid approach. It’s not enough to do this at the launch of the program or during new employee on-boarding. All employees are human and will need some reminders. So, make sure to train often.

As discussed, building a solid records management program is not easy, but is well worth the effort. So, don’t give up, stay positive and keep the faith.

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