Setting Records Management Policy
The task seems daunting: You need a good records management system, one that will bring a common process to storing and retrieving files so you can find what you need, when you need it. How do you get there?
As in any treatment plan, recognizing the necessity is the first step. The next steps may not always be simple, but the destination is worth the effort and commitment. Here is a basic road map for assessing your records storage and retrieval needs and developing an effective RIM policy:
- Know why you need a process. Government regulations, notably Sarbanes-Oxley, leave many organizations with little choice in having solid records management in place. But some carrots go along with those legal sticks. Good RIM practices bring many benefits, including knowing what records you have and how to get them, increased efficiency and effectiveness, better decision making, reduced risk and lower costs. Articulating the benefits — and how they can be measured — provides a strong business case that will help you generate the support you need.
- Bring the right people together. For nearly every organization, defining, implementing and monitoring a good records management program is not a one-person task. Involvement must begin at the very top. Fortunately, most senior executives today recognize the importance of good RIM policy and practices. Getting leadership support and sponsorship is vital to placing this task high on the organization’s priority list, an important factor when seeking financial and human resources for the project. At the same time, the records management staff and key employees from each business line who handle files and documents should be part of the team that will develop the program.
- Conduct a records inventory. It’s a big job, but a complete inventory will reveal what records exist and where they are. From there, you can determine which ones are vital and how they can be managed most effectively. This is essential information for creating an effective RIM system. Vendor partners such as Abraxas have the tools and expertise to assist in an inventory.
- Develop the policy and program. This is where your diverse team of experts will be especially important. They will help define the right strategies for managing different types of records and give guidance on storage, retention, accessibility, security and disposal. Depending on your needs, you might consider tapping outside help. RIM consultants can suggest a variety of effective systems that meet your requirements and fit your budget.
- Establish ongoing communication and training. Employees beyond the records management group will play a vital role in the success of your program. They need to understand and embrace the processes. Communication must involve more than an occasional memo or email; you need a robust, ongoing plan using every vehicle available to share the rationale and expectations, answer questions, prompt feedback and address concerns. Also, offer a variety of training opportunities so employees feel equipped to do their part.
Determining your records management needs and developing a system to address them is a major investment in time and resources, but it’s one that yields many measurable benefits.
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Abraxas has strategic skills it applies across the entire spectrum of records management. We provide clients with tailored records and information management solutions, delivering the business intelligence that matters most — and we do it more efficiently and reliably than anyone else, particularly in highly regulated industries. To learn more, email email@example.com or call us: 866.535.0016 (toll-free) or 269.226.0016.