4 FAQs to Use When First Building a Records Management (RIM) Program

New to records management? Don’t worry, we’ve got you. We pinged our chief records management expert, Pierre Smith and asked him the four fundamental questions your team must ask prior to launching a records management effort.

Why do you need to keep records and data?

Records and data can be both an asset and a liability as they are the imprint of all of your organization’s activities and transactions. There are three reasons why you should retain and track them. Firstly, all organizations must be in compliance with relevant regulations, industry standards and organizational policies. If your organization is not in compliance this could mean fines and other issues with regulators and a potential PR disaster, possibly damaging your business.

Secondly, a balance must be struck between an organization’s ability to defend itself against actions, such as audits, claims and litigation, and its ability to play offense, such as with contracts or IP. This reason is particularly important to senior executives. Finally, organizations must retain records and data to operate productively and enable efficient decision-making.

These three reasons alone are often sufficient to justify retaining records to mitigate risk and consequences like sanctions, fines and loss of reputation.

Which records and information should you keep?

Most organizations produce large amounts of records and data so it is important to know which to focus on. Retaining only what you are required to keep saves money, time and resources and mitigates risk. We suggest targeting three categories.

  • Official and vital records- These are records that you are required to keep because of regulations, business reasons, industry standards or internal policies. Official copies of these records should be listed in a retention schedule, which states the retention period. We’ll cover more about retention schedules in a bit. After the retention period is over, the records should be discarded.
  • Legal holds- In the case of litigation, records and discoverable information should be held from the normal course of disposal. Once this hold is released, normal retention and disposition can be resumed.
  • Business files- Information produced in the course of business-like ad hoc reports, drafts and reference materials- should only be retained if they have continued value. Otherwise, they should be discarded.

How should records and data be managed and governed?

Your records information management program must be governed and managed systematically and consistently. This program should be based on three components.

The most critical component is the RIM policy, which includes the records retention schedule. This policy sets the mandates for managing, protecting, retaining and disposing of records and data in a consistent, systematic and defensible manner. The rules must be easily understood, repeatable and enforceable.

Additionally, there must be defined and written processes and procedures. Processes will provide a guide for implementing the policy and the procedures will provide instructions for procedures that need to executed in a certain manner. Generally, the RIM process starts with knowing with what records you have, where are they and what to keep.

Finally, it is crucial to create communications and training for staff. In short, they need to know what to do and how to do it.

What resources are needed to support the records management programs?

Implementing a RIM program isn’t a “one and done” process. Organizations need to adequately budget for the program.

Importantly, staff are in integral part of the records management process. Engage employees who use records and information. Form an information governance committee with staff from legal, IT, security and the business unit to coordinate your RIM efforts.

Finally, technology is often overlooked when facilitating the RIM process. It can be used to classify and manage content; search, index and analyze data; secure sensitive information; implement retention and disposition, move content; help with legal discovery; and perform other manual tasks.

We hope you will consider using these four FAQs to help explain to senior executives for RIM and gain their support. Also, any mandates, initiatives, projects, program activities should help you justify value on investment. If you have any additional questions or comments, please contact us.