It goes without saying (and yet I’ll say it anyway!) that your organisation stands to benefit from streamlining and organising your information. Businesses can optimise both efficiency and efficacy by maintaining a records management program that is clearly defined and communicated thoroughly throughout the organisation. The key to finding the best program is simple: know what needs to stay and know what needs to go. Organisations, for the most part, cannot function without any information. They also cannot function if they are drowning in data, proverbially, of course, absolutely inundated with records and files both physical and digital.
Defining a retention policy is vital in establishing the best practice for your organisation’s information. Varying types of information need different shelf lives or will be kept indefinitely. Maintaining a retention policy designed specifically to your organisations’ needs will provide the clarity needed to minimise the risk of litigation concerning how long information is to be kept. You may find yourself at risk if necessary information has been destroyed or by keeping information beyond its legally required retention period.
Legislation and regulatory compliance can be a tricky minefield to navigate, so the importance of effectively communicating a clear retention policy cannot be overstated. One of the most effective ways of minimising risk is to communicate from the top down.
The benefits of an effective Records & Information Management (RIM) strategy:
A compliant and effective records management program allows for easy retrieval of information, minimises costs and produces both immediate and long-term benefits for the organisation. This in turn helps to:
- Control Record Volumes: A “records retention schedule” will involve the destruction of unnecessary information. This will effectively reduce physical and digital storage by up to 40%, producing enormous cost savings.
- Improve Access: With the right systems in place, organisations can expect to be able to respond more quickly to changes in the environment resulting in faster time-to-market, improved customer service and more informed decisions.
- Ensure Regulatory Compliance: A more organised information program with reduced clutter will help your organisation remain compliant with the multitude of industry-specific guidelines as well as laws and regulations with which it must abide.
- Improve Efficiency and Productivity: An effective RIM strategy means important information is kept, unnecessary information is discarded and delays are reduced when employees need to locate specific records. Adobe-commissioned IDC white paper “Bridging the information worker productivity gap” identifies opportunities for increasing worker productivity; with the average knowledge worker spending in excess of 20% of their time filing or searching for documents, an effective RIM strategy can have a palpable impact, saving an estimate of $10,000 per knowledge worker per annum.
Making a change – Knowing your information management ‘profile’
As with any journey, getting to where you’re going starts with knowing where you are. Determining where your organisation is will allow you to plot the perfect path by anticipating any potential road blocks and allowing you to understand the current state of information management.
ZircoDATA has identified six key organisational profiles: The Digitiser, the Unifier, the Records Reducer, the Vendor Consolidator, the Program Accelerator and the Space Maker. (And no, they don’t all assemble to make a rag-tag ensemble of world-saving heroes. Alas.) Each profile faces its own set of unique challenges and subsequent recommendations for cleansing records and setting up an information management program that enhances the value of data.
- The Digitiser travels the path of streamlining workflows and automating processes by removing paper. However, in doing so, it must recognise the importance of knowing what to scan to improve productivity. Following that, digitisers need to follow these key commandments:
- Identify inefficient manual steps in key workflows
- Apply metadata and business rules
- Don’t aim to digitise everything – just what you need!
- Automate workflows wherever possible.
- The Unifier seeks to ensure alignment between electronic and paper policies, applying these consistently across all records. To get there, the Unifier needs to:
- Align paper and digital policies
- Standardise metadata
- Connect information and administer policy in one system
- Provide common search and discovery.
- The Records Reducer has recognised its shortcomings in hoarding and knows it needs to significantly reduce storage costs by getting a clearer idea of what to destroy. Records Reducers should look to:
- Make sure IT assets are securely disposed of
- Ensure retention policies are up to date
- Take advice on defensibility
- Securely shred records eligible for destruction
- Ensure go-forward inventory is properly indexed
- The Vendor Consolidator is grappling with inconsistent information management vendor policies that expose it to major litigation and financial risk. Having recognised the need to consolidate, the road to recovery lies in:
- Calling for bids to migrate and manage
- Consolidating to one place to find information
- Prioritising consistent application of policy.
- The Program Accelerator has a mature RIM program, but wants to improve its measurement of program performance. Unfortunately, often the biggest challenge facing the Program Accelerator is people. It can reach its goal with the following tips:
- Take a lead role in in the overarching RIM strategy for both electronic and physical information
- Manage IT systems from selection to decommissioning
- Proactively tackle trigger or event based retention
- Create defensible policies, procedures, tools and a retention schedule
- Train the organisation on RIM complianceMonitor performance in all areas with defined metrics
- Monitor performance in all areas with defined metrics
- Benchmark against your peers.
- The Space Maker is determined to change the ‘keep everything’ culture embedded within the organisation. When every bit of space counts, repurposing it for revenue-generating activities becomes a priority. Space Makers should look to:
- Maximise real estate by outsourcing things like offsite tape vaulting and records storage
- Determine what needs to stay onsite and what can be destroyed or sent offsite
- Assess your records depositories.
As each organisation is different, each RIM strategy must be different. The structures and strategies outlined above are by no means mutually exclusive and moving forward effectively will be a matter of identifying your starting point and finding the best way to reach your goal. At ZircoDATA, we pride ourselves on not only being able to diagnose your organisation and where its at, but also on being able to help you get where you’re going. We can help you optimise your operations and ensure you achieve records management best practice.