Implementing a Records Management program is a strategic imperative which should never be taken lightly, neither by corporate nor public sector executives.

When you are building a house your architectural design is the foundation of your plans and will determine whether your house will crumble or collapse over time. Similarly your RM initiative’s architectural design is a pivotal factor, determining whether your program will be sustainable over the long haul.

Establish Records Management Principles

Before you build your architectural design you need to establish some principles that you’ll follow in your RM journey. Establishing the behaviors and your guiding RM principles formalizes your initiative and helps executives and employees take ownership of their role in program execution.

Reviewing ARMA’s Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles is a good way to begin establishing a successful information governance program. These principles include:

  • Accountability
  • Integrity
  • Compliance
  • Protection
  • Availability
  • Retention
  • Disposition
  • Transparency

By reviewing these principles, and working with an experienced Certified Records Manager (CRM) consultant to put them into practice, you will soon be able to appreciate the impact of effective records management. Understanding the gravity of these principles is important to getting your organization on board with the rollout of an RM system.

Record Keeping Policies

Now you may want to jump right into your game plan for records management, but first you have to define what your records are. It is helpful to establish specific policies around what exactly constitutes a record in your organization, such as:

    1. emails (internal and external)
    2. Contracts
    3. Letters
    4. Invoices
    5. Instant Messages
    6. Social Media posts and profiles
    7. Videos and/or recordings of company meetings
    8. Text messages
    9. Web content, e.g. blogs, e-commerce products and web page content

Retention Schedules 

Once you’re able to identify what your records are, you should define how long these information assets are kept, methods you will use for archiving them as they age, and how you will regulate the retention schedules accordingly. This is no easy task, and a CRM can provide valuable guidance for defining your records retention needs based on your industry, organization type, and the nature of the records themselves.

Taxonomy and Governance Roles

It’s now time to design your taxonomic file plan. An efficient file plan not only determines how quickly your users are able to find information, but also improves the effectiveness of the related metadata profiling of these containers and the physical and electronic records associated with them.

Some considerations for your file plan are:

  • The library, file part, folder and subfolder structure
  • Related metadata profiling of the above containers and the associated records
  • Automated classification through folder location, if your RM software has this capability

Finally establishing an RM Steering committee from across your organization can help ensure that your file plan, and your overall strategy, stays on target.

Security Safeguards Against Data Loss 

Having records access controls in place is one thing –actually controlling what privileged employees can do with records once they have them is another. Controlling access can provide increased security for your organization. Research studies show that up to ninety percent of data loss isn’t from external hackers, but from internal threats to security. Controlling who can delete, share, or otherwise modify the state of a record is a key step from the beginning of your RM implementation.

If you are an operational or information governance executive and have taken on a mandate to implement, adopt, or improve your company’s records management program, you need to take full responsibility for and ownership of every element of the program. Having a strategic partner who has guided organizations in taking their records management programs from concept to reality can ease a great deal of the pressure on your shoulders.

Needless to say, these tasks aren’t as simple as they might seem at a quick glance — especially when you take into account items like social media posts, texts, and other types of data you may never have even considered records to begin with.

Choosing a Records Management System

Selecting the best enterprise records management software should only take place after you’ve done the due diligence of formulating your RM file plan and putting the proper policies and principles in place. The best way to go about selecting the right records management software is by considering many different factors, such as:

  • Existing systems, such as an ERP system, document management system and office productivity applications, such as SAP, eDocs, or Office 365
  • The complexity of your workflow processes, file plan taxonomy, and digital rights management needs
  • Your specific industry, the particular types of records you maintain, and the unique compliance requirements to which you must adhere

The success of your organization’s records management program is highly dependent on the preparation that you do. Executives have to go beyond adopting your RM program themselves — they have to be evangelists for it. If management takes ownership of records governance, it provides a compelling reason for their staff to follow suit.

The more collaborative planning and design you do internally in your business the easier it will make it for a CRM to help you put your plans into action in a Records Management system