January 26, 2018

How Far Does Your Records Management Strategy Reach?

4 minute read

How pervasive is your records management strategy? This is a common question for many organizations who are looking to implement a new records management system or improve upon their existing one. While there are several ways to approach records management, there are two main strategies: federated and centralized.

Both offer benefits, but they do have their differences. Understanding which is right for your organization can help you maximize your records management effectiveness and ensure regulatory compliance.


Federated Records Management: What Is It?

The federated, or manage in place approach, allows organizations to manage records where they reside in their originating business systems. Records policies like classification, retention, immutability, and legal holds controls are applied to the content where it resides. This means there is minimal disruption to the business or end user, because the information will naturally remain where it has been stored.

One benefit to this approach is that organizations can manage multiple data repositories throughout the enterprise collectively without having to migrate content to a central record archive. This offers a low total cost of ownershup and can be implemented quickly. Cloud-based or SaaS records management platforms are even more cost effective, as they can be implemented with limited to no IT infrastructure required.

But there are also disadvantages to the federated approach. Backup and recovery of vital records is dependent on each data repository,  e-Discovery might be more challenging, and functions such as file locking or immutability may not be available in all business systems.

A Centralized Approach

The centralized approach allows organizations to have a central location where all records will be managed, referenced, and disposed in accordance with records retention and disposition requirements. This means an organization will consolidate all of their records into one secure records archive.

The benefits to this approach is that organizations, especially those in highly regulated industries, can maintain advanced and strict compliance standards such as DoD 5015.02 certification. As well as having one place to find corporate records,  there is one security and one compliance model to maintain, making transfers and recovery of vital records far easier.

The disadvantages are that the percent of managed records vs. actual records is typically low. Records management knowledge becomes a requirement for all users, not just the records staff. Users may be responsible for tagging documents with record classifications, or moving the documents to the records repository at a point in its lifecycle. Since records are now centralized in one record archive, end users may not be granted access to view or search the records.

Which Is Right? It Depends

Now that you understand the basic differences between these two approaches you need to determine which approach your organization needs. A number of factors come into play when making this decision, such as what regulations or compliance requirements exist in your industry. What does your content landscape look like, and where is your content stored today?

Another factor that organizations often overlook is the need to understand how users work with content today, and to decide how willing your are to train end users on records management. Also, what is your appetite for migrating content, taking into consideration volume, time, cost, and resources? Would you have to outsource this, or can you handle it on your own?

To summarize, deciding between centralized or a federated records management, or taking a hybrid approach, is dependent on your business requirements, employees and industry. The next step is finding the right vendor to help you implement a records management strategy. Gimmal has been helping organizations implement records management for almost 20 years, by offering a wide variety of software products that enable both the centralized and the federated approach.

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