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Questions to Help You Better Manage Your Records

If you are new to records management the prospect of building out an entire program can be quite daunting. Especially if you’ve not had much training or the budget for a consultant or your primary job does not fall under the purview of records management.

At its core records management is a framework to provide primary information which can be used as a base for decision making. However, in circumstances of mismanagement or corruption, systems collapse rendering decision-makers vulnerable or likely to make decisions on an uninformed basis. Wrong decisions promote conflict. Lack of documentary evidence for any business has similar consequences with worthwhile situations when it comes to public records requests, litigation, and e-discovery, etc. At a minimum be sure to capture essential metadata about your records, such as author, business unit, document type, and retention life. Beyond this basic assignment of metadata please be sure to consider these questions.

What Records and Information Should You Keep?

To sustain business effectively, an organization must know what to retain or discard. In culling through your records and information, you should focus on four primary buckets of information. Otherwise, there is no reason to keep them.

  • Official Records: These are official copies of records listed in the organization's records retention schedule, which need to be retained for the stated retention period in the normal course of business. They should be discarded at the end of the period.

  • Permanent Records- Often have historical value. Permanent records are often kept by government agencies.

  • Legal Holds: In case of adversarial actions, records and information must be suspended from disposal in the normal course of business and retained until the hold is released. Subsequently, it can resume normal retention and disposition.

  • Work Files: Messages, drafts, redundant copies, work papers, ad hoc reports, and other reference materials should only be retained if they have business value for the purpose they serve. Otherwise, they should be discarded as soon as possible.

Retaining only what you are required to keep saves money, time, and resources, improving the bottom line and mitigating the potential cost of non-compliance.

Other Questions to Consider

  • Do you have a firm grasp of the laws and standards for which records that companies in your industry must keep, which regulatory compliance mandates you are beholden to, as well as the rules on legal evidence?.

  • Have you considered how you’ll keep pace with future document formats such as videoconferencing and files generated by collaboration tools?

  • Are your record-keeping standards linked to industry, government mandates, and organizational business goals and processes? And do you abide by them? If you are in litigation You shouldn’t destroy some records sporadically and have no established purpose for holding on to others. Consistency and documented policies (plus audits) are critical to a program that stands up during an e-discovery request.

  • Are your systems reliable? And can they flag when records have been changed or destroyed maliciously or unintentionally? Have you researched ‘trusted systems?’ If not, it may be tough to defend the accuracy of your records and the soundness of your record-keeping policies.

Lastly, tools and technologies (such as Laserfiche) are often overlooked to facilitate the RIM process. They can help automatically classify and manage content; search, index, and analyze data; protect sensitive information; provide content storage; implement retention and disposition; migrate or move content; aid in e-discovery; and perform other tasks that would otherwise be manual and an additional burden on staff.

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