With new types of media, formats and locations to store information and technology, records management is no simple task, and it gets more complicated all the time. Text messages, wikis, blogs, instant messages, emails and social media are all types of records that need to be managed in today’s changing workplace.
With the volume and variety of records ever-increasing and budgets staying the same, records managers need to find a model of records management execution that can meet legal and regulatory demands while keeping costs down. Many companies are overwhelmed, but setting boundaries about what can reasonably be managed on a small budget is a risky way to handle records management without a solid plan.
A risk based approach
Records managers need a simple and clear way to identify areas where more risk is probable based on critical factors that affect the company and put an emphasis on effort levels in those areas first. With an overwhelming ocean of records, prioritization is key to keeping them all managed on a budget.
Step one: Define risk
To get the best effect, records managers need to make sure they understand overall company risks and defining their own risks based on the overall objective for the larger organization. Records managers should consider legal risks, regulatory risks, financial risks, operational risks and reputational risks.
Step two: Prioritize
Put your risks in order of priority. Seems obvious, but it’s an important step in deciding where to focus the most energy and money. What is the probability that each risk will come to fruition, and if they do, how detrimental the outcome?
Step three: Mitigate risk
Each identified risk needs to have a mitigation plan in place. Understand which set of records corresponds with each listed risk and create a plan with specific procedures to follow in order to mitigate that risk. Create controls around each risk that may be in the form of policies or automated system. What controls you put in place for each risk and how you implement them will depend on where it falls on the priority list and your available resources. Don’t create an unrealistic plan, airtight in a perfect world but impossible to actually follow through with.
Step four: Assess and reevaluate
Steps one through three represent a lot of work, but that’s just the planning phase. Records managers need to measure the effectiveness of the plan, make sure it’s working and adjust policies and procedures along the way. Putting tracking mechanisms in place as you go will help to measure overall effectiveness of the program as well as show results to executives who have control over the records management budget!
Taking a risk-based approach to records management will help prioritize workflow and manage resources. The records management industry is growing and changing quickly; it may feel like the Wild West, but our approach to the changes must be systematic and thoughtful.