Companies have contemplated work from home and work from anywhere solutions for many years, but recent events have forced the decision to an overnight reaction. The new work from anywhere proposition presents organizations with the challenge of providing access to company information that is still in the office or stored with a vendor. Enter the option of records management as a managed service.
Whether by circumstance or by choice, outsourcing the records management function, in whole or in part, is a proposition that many companies are pursuing. As staff can’t access physical records holdings because the staff and records are no longer together, a solution is needed to solve the accessibility problem.
What are the benefits of fully or partially outsourced records management?
Having physical records stored by an off-site vendor isn’t a new concept. What is new is having that vendor store and manage active records, not just inactive ones. Records management managed services can provide:
- Storage of active records
- Shipment of records as needed
- Conversion of records to an electronic format for long-term management
- Integration of the new electronic version with the company’s existing electronic collection
- Scan on demand services when quick access is required
- Simplified transition from active to inactive status
- Retention and disposition management to meet compliance needs
Managed RM services are an opportunity to have the entire records lifecycle managed by trained and dedicated records management personnel in facilities designed specifically to manage and protect records.
Steps to Align your RM Program to the Work-From-Anywhere Model
It’s rumored that, as a result of the pandemic, up to half of all businesses are stating that they will be moving to work from anywhere models on a permanent basis. Something is going to have to be done to manage those physical records stored on-site.
As footprints in office buildings shrink, the movement of paper records changes from optional to required. This means that organizations will need to ensure several steps are taken to properly manage their physical records going forward. Here’s a short list of the key activities to consider in this transition period:
- Ensure the company’s record retention schedule is up-to-date and is legally defensible (includes supporting legal citations including those that address privacy maximum retention periods).
- Implement a ROT (Redundant, Obsolete, Transitory) removal process to eliminate storing documents that are not official records.
- Inventory and box records ensuring capture of at least the file title and date range and, if possible, the record series identifier and the associated retention period (best to calculate it out and mark as the disposition eligibility date).
- Assign barcodes to the boxes, as may be required or assign cart numbers for files that will be moved to active off-site file rooms.
- Make decisions about which collections should be sent for imaging/scanning based on long-term preservation needs, access to multiple staff at the same time, access by staff in geographically disparate locations and so on.
- Arrange for pick up by your Managed Services vendor.
- Track your records from the time they leave your site right through to when they are in staging for imaging, and when they are on the shelf (ensure your vendor offers this!).
- Provide access to the offsite inventory to the general staff of the organization.
- Work with your vendor to place the scanned images into a common repository (this could be a cloud storage area or a controlled FTP site, or as a last resort the images could be put onto portable media).
If your organization really is reducing its footprint and in-office meetings with clients aren’t a necessity, you may not have an office reception. As part of the Records Management program, your vendor partner may even offer a virtual mailroom service. This would include the vendor team receiving incoming mail, sorting into record and non-record material, imaging the record material and placing it into a recordkeeping system, boxing the originals for storage and distributing the non-record materials at regularly scheduled intervals.
On Premises Managed RM Services
What if you aren’t removing all the physical records from your site and need to manage them on premises? Again, managed RM services may still be the right answer. A trained and dedicated vendor team member could manage physical holdings and provide a dedicated scanning role that collects and scans paper documents on site as they are received.
This model allows for a minimal supervision requirement while having knowledgeable and trained resources manage the organization’s records. The training cost is all but eliminated since the vendor will have already provided the necessary RM or technical training and all that will remain is a small amount of process training at the startup phase. Supervision will likely be a shared model with most guidance coming from the vendor leader and some occasional guidance being provided by the organization’s key records contact.
In some models, the vendor team may cover specific document management practices where volumes are very high. In this case, the team will likely be responsible for not only organizing the records, but also ensure that record sets are complete and in compliance with regulatory requirements.
Managed RM Services Led by a CRM
Managed services could go even further if the vendor team is led by a Certified Records Manager. In this case, the vendor would be capable of reviewing processes and making recommendations to the company’s leadership on best practice solutions for handling records throughout operational practices. They could also lead discussions with the IT team regarding best practices for electronic records. The development of RFPs for records management software is yet another area where a Certified Records Manager vendor partner could assist.
Perhaps, with the right vendor, your managed service team may also be able to support the storage of your electronic records through either software offerings or maybe even secure cloud storage space. The possibilities here are endless and you should talk with your vendor about the type of support they offer in this space.
Finally, the managed services vendor team will have strong background in transitioning paper records off-site for long-term low-cost storage. They will be capable of inventorying, boxing, and shipping boxes off site while also being the point of contact to retrieve boxes from off-site storage.
Making WFH and Shrinking Office Spaces Work
In short, businesses seem to be headed down a path where office spaces are shrinking. This means less building capacity for physical records and possibly for the teams managing them.
With the right vendor partner, managed services for records management could be the comprehensive solution that fills the need to continue to manage physical records with a smaller office footprint. Your vendor partner should supply a good variety of services and products, trained and experienced staff, certified team leaders, and should help reduce overhead compared to the equivalent internal team.
Download our whitepaper, How to Build a Modern Records and Information Management Program, and get your authoritative guide on how to build an information management program.