We are in the midst of a transition that has been in process for the last two decades. During this time period organizations have been producing more information and content than ever before. This information and data is critical to the success of that organization and needs to be properly managed and maintained.
Through regulation and constant litigation, organizations are constantly challenged to have a firm grasp on records and information management (RIM). They must implement programs that support proper handling, formatting and destruction of both hardcopy and digital information.
The sheer volume and the associated risks with managing and protecting this information can be overwhelming. It poses significant challenges to businesses of all sizes and is agnostic to industry.
The answer is to view your program in terms of lifecycle management. Not compartmentalizing aspects of the program, but viewing it as a sequence or process that will provide greater access and efficiency, while mitigating risk and improving overall compliance.
Stage 1 of Lifecycle: Hardcopy
The television show “The Office” (U.S. Version) was set at a fictional company that sold paper. At numerous points in the shows history, the audience was reminded that these characters were in a dying industry that would be obsolete.
Believe it or not…..paper is not dead. Yes, it is less prevalent and slowly being moved out but that timeline continues to be extended every year. Industries such as Healthcare, Legal and Higher Education continue to expand their utilization or modern technologies, but much of their programs are hybrid based with usage of paper still seen across all.
Strong hardcopy programs leverage off-site storage models in which material is protected within a highly secure location that provides the correct environment and controls to protect your records.
Stage 2 of Lifecycle: Information Governance
The two most essential aspects of any information management program is the ability to identify an individual record, indexing, and the utilization of a clearly defined retention policy.
Information governance allows organizations to harness data and properly identify the compliant scheduled for which that record shall remain in inventory. This allows for organizations to protect critical data and ensure compliance with regulations.
Retention planning and implementation also provides organizations with the ability to manage costs as they are effectively managing inventory levels and limiting exposure to risk of discovery.
Stage 3 of Lifecycle: Secure Shredding
A complimentary service to hardcopy management, secure shredding allows individuals the ability to properly eliminate files that contain critical pieces of personal, financial, medical or legal information.
Establishment of secure shredding programs are part of a comprehensive RIM program are critical to compliance. Simply discarding these documents in the trash will not suffice and local shredders provided in offices have low adoption rates and are subject to significant risk.
Strategically placed “shred bins or consoles” that allow for ease of use have higher adoption rates and are secure. Rotated on a consistent basis, these bins are securely locked, rotated on a weekly or monthly basis and the contents are properly destroyed at a professional location.
Stage 4 of Lifecycle: Digital Conversion
Once a hardcopy program has clearly defined policies and storage methodologies, you can then begin to identify records/files that should be converted to a digital format.
Converting hardcopy records to digital formats allows organizations to increase the security and accessibility of that content. It also can improve efficiency as it is portable and highly flexible to meet the needs of the user.
Although this should be targeted and specific, converting hardcopy files to a digital format provides the user with a format that is less susceptible to risk. These files are also more easily accessible through an “on demand” or retrieval process from a cloud based storage database.
Organizations can then determine if the digital format satisfies business requirements which would allow them to eliminate the need for hardcopy storage costs.
Stage 5 of Lifecycle: Secure Destruction
Unlike secure shredding which is the shredding of individual files, secure destruction is a process by which cartons of files are destroyed on a scheduled basis. This cadence is determined by organizational or industry based retention policies.
The destruction of material is essential to a complete RIM program and should be completed by a professional organization that provides certificates of destruction (COD) upon completion.
Information and data have become a currency that is bought and sold in the darkest places of the web. A data breach can cost an organization millions and ruin it reputation in the market. Information security is critical and following a strict RIM program will allow you to protect your organization, its people and your clients.
Institute and adhere to a strong RIM program to ensure your organization is protected.
Rich Langtry has been leading complex records and information management client engagements since 2007. With an emphasis on Program Quality and Risk Mitigation, he leads a team who works closely with key accounts in the Healthcare, Legal, Education and Financial sectors throughout the Northeast. Rich is active in industry organizations such as ARMA and ALA.