Adding Value Through Modern Records Management

May 23, 2024 9:26:30 AM
Adding Value Through Modern Records Management

Traditional records management is a unique combination of legal and compliance issues, company policies, electronic records, physical records, and technology. This article is about modern records management which is much more focused on bringing value to the organization. Many organizations have compliance and records management requirements, but very few organizations take the time to consider ways to leverage their records management processes to make improvements in their organization. It’s important to consider whether there are ways to modernize the records management approach and think of it in terms of return on investment and value to the organization. In this article we'll provide some useful insight to help records managers bring real value and return on investment to their organization.

To bring value and return on investment, the records manager needs to think beyond traditional records management techniques. Traditional records management techniques had little to do with value and were more focused on ensuring compliance and enforcing policies. For most organizations, records management is just an expense. In fact, thinking about records management beyond the realm of simple compliance can be hard, especially when you're surrounded by boxes and folders and barcodes and inundated with thousands of electronic documents and an endless stream of requests, but it's a worthwhile endeavor.

When we start our journey toward modern records management, the first place we looked is the file plan. The file plan is often a spreadsheet that lists types of documents, which department owns them, and how long to keep them. Looking at a file plan it's hard to imagine a way that it will bring value to the organization, after all it's just a spreadsheet listing documents and how long we need to keep them.

In modern records management we look at each row of that spreadsheet and think about it in a different way. That row in the spreadsheet represents a policy in the organization that needs to be enforced but it also represents a transaction with time and money associated with it. It’s a much more complex thing. To enforce the policy it has to be reviewed and maintained, distributed, end users trained and ultimately there needs to be follow up by the records manager to ensure nothing slips through the cracks. Each one of these activities requires time and money above and beyond the transaction associated to the document itself.

In modern records management we should look at that row in the spreadsheet and think of it as several opportunities. The first opportunity is to modernize the way we deal with the rules. The rule should be automatically enforced across the enterprise by our records management system. The records manager should maintain the rule and our modern records management system should handle ensuring that all documents and physical records in our system comply with the rule. The end users don't need to be aware of the rule or trained about how it works.

With modern records management, department heads and legal departments can work together to review the rules. The records manager can implement and maintain the rule, and the system can enforce the rules, perform the follow up, and ensure nothing slips through the cracks. The rules eliminate the cost, burden, training, and potential errors associated with what originally seemed like just a harmless row of information in a spreadsheet.

Another thing to think about when we're looking at that row in our file plan are the processes that it represents. Yes, it represents a document, either physical or electronic that exists somewhere in our organization, but it represents much more than that. It's natural for a records manager to say that the row in the spreadsheet represents a record, but that's falling back on traditional records management techniques and only partially true. A record is really a document at some point in time in its lifecycle and that's the way we need to think about it in modern records management.

Every document in the organization has a life cycle which dictates if and when we can get rid of that document. In modern records management the document life cycle is managed from the creation of the document rather than at some point in the lifecycle of the document. The fundamental and important shift is that the declaration of record becomes just another point in the document lifecycle. Records management has now expanded its reach to include all documents in all phases of their life cycle across the organization.

To the end users, this means that as they're creating documents as part of business transactions they don't have to worry about whether it's a record, if it should be kept permanently, or anything at all about records management. Our modern records management system handles all of this and eliminates the possibility of a document slipping through the cracks.

Since our records management system is aware of all documents in the organization regardless of where they are in their lifecycle, records management is “touching” every transaction. Modern records management can make sure that all documents are properly classified and contain all of the information that’s critical to the business. The records manager goes from someone who catches errors on the back end to someone who helps ensure documents are accurate, available and easy to find as they're being created. Perhaps most importantly, information that is deemed critical to the organization such as statuses and dates are assigned to these documents regardless of whether they’ve been deemed “a record.” This change helps drive standard processes throughout the organization.

Using modern records management techniques our file plan goes from a simple spreadsheet to an automated rule system. That system is making sure that our organization has information that is critical to its processes, and rather than burdening the end users with needless records management tasks, the records manager is now helping the departments codify the information that is critical to their processes and their documents. The modern records manager becomes an agent for process improvement within the organization.

records management

When the modern records manager looks at a file plan, rather than rows of policies about documents, we should see a list of processes that are a vital part of critical transactions within the organization. As the records manager begins to analyze each and every process and improve each and every transaction we take time and money off of those transactions and make the entire organization more efficient.

There are very few people in an organization who can be well versed in what happens across every single department and importantly, between departments. The modern records manager has the opportunity to step back and understand the big picture of the organization. They can look at the transactions that are going on within the organization and understand the relationships between those transactions and most importantly, how transactions in one department impact another department.

Since each of the documents in our file plan represents a vital part of critical business transactions, the records manager is in a unique position to facilitate improvements within and between departments. What starts as a records management discussion often turns into a discussion about critical pieces of information that are needed by various departments. Working through our file plan and taking the approach of a modern records manager, offers the ability to streamline many critical transactions in the organization and make improvements across the organization.

I know that some records managers reading this article will have a hard time imaging themselves as agents of change within the organization. However, since most departments are busy doing the day-to-day transactions for their department, they often don’t have the time or resources to analyze ways that changes in their department could make improvements for other departments. The move to modern records management all stems from the critical evolution of “records management” to a system which manages the full lifecycle of a document.

Since documents represent a vital part of transactions that go on in the organization the records manager by extension has visibility to all of the most vital parts of every transaction in the organization. By removing barriers that cause transactions to get delayed, documents to get lost, errors to be made, and by ensuring a “proper” record is generated in the end, the records manager adds tremendous value to the organization.

In the era of modern records management, the records manager is no longer shuffling papers and boxes and an expense to the organization. The modern records manager implements tools to facilitate the most streamlined and efficient processes for an organization resulting in improved processes and decreased costs.

The modern records manager should be able to add one more important column in their file plan spreadsheet: cost savings. Every row in that spreadsheet is an opportunity for improved efficiencies and cost savings. If you're ready to move your organization from traditional records management to modern records management and begin to realize real return on investment contact TEAM IM today.

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