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A New Year’s Resolution for Records Managers

President Obama recently challenged every agency / organization of the federal government to define what they were going to do to improve their organization’s records management programs to ensure federal records were retained, preserved and protected for later discovery and response to public inquires.

I for one believe that the President’s challenge should be embraced by every professional records manager in the United States, if not the world.  Here is one national leader, who openly acknowledges that records management within the US Federal Government is ripe for improvement.  Similar improvements are called for in the private, state and local government sectors of this country.  By-in-large, this profession is due for a significant shot in the arm and this Presidential challenge is that opportunity, so let’s make the most of it.

We have all seen New Year’s Resolutions for most everything one can imagine so, why haven’t we seen one for Records Management Programs?

Well, no longer, let’s try this one:

“In 2012, I vow to work towards improving my organizations ability to effectively and efficiently retain, preserve, protect and disposition our organization’s records in accordance with our approved retention schedule.”  I will accomplish this by employing some of the following steps:

  1. Expose what it is costing my organization today to do business without effective records management;
  2. Perform a prescriptive self assessment on my organization’s current records management program against a commonly accepted set of criteria, such as ARMA International’s GARP (Generally Accepted Records Principles);
  3. Develop a return-on-investment (ROI), business case and total-cost-of-ownership (TCO) based upon the information uncovered in the first two steps and develop an Executive level presentation which clearly and concisely articulates those savings for my organization’s Executives;
  4. Work to build out our organization’s information governance program based upon where we discover we are at today (following the self-assessment), not where you want to be.  Enhancements to our information governance program can and should take place as our program matures and execution is facilitated by automation when and where appropriate;
  5. Begin immediately to limit the publication and processing of hard copy documents and presume that information should progress though its lifecyle in electronic form rather than paper, whenever practical and permitted by law; and
  6. Employ a tool like contextual analytics / file Intelligence to analyze, index and categorize our organization’s information in various high priority repositories so, that decision makers know specifics about what information we have, in order to make the right decisions about what to do with it.  Decision makers must have this kind of detail in order to determine:
  • what  information is a business record or not, if not a business record  we can likely defensively depose of them in-place;
  • if it is a business record, and we already have a copy of it, we do not need to keep it and can defensively dispose of the duplicates in-place; and
  • if the business record is not a duplicate however, it has already satisfied its retention requirements, we can then defensively dispose of it in-place.

If the discovered business record is currently in an existing inadequately secured repository, we will then take this opportunity to move the business record to a secure repository, where it can be secured, so that no unauthorized personnel (including the owner of the record) can change or delete the record until which time it has satisfied its retention period.

So, think about this.  Maybe, everything here is too much you and your organization to take on in one year.  If that is the case, start at the top of the list and do what you can.  Just remember that old saying, “A decision not to decide is still a decision” and one that has little to show for it. 

Challenge yourself, that is the only way you are going to be able to improve things records management wise within your organization.  Don’t forget ROI and TCO they are your keys to successfully defending your efforts and the resources you will be asking your management to spend.

HAPPY NEW YEAR and let me know if I can help you, (having successfully done this seven times in my 30+ years implementing records management programs in both the public and private sectors.)

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