10 Records Management Tips for Electronic Records Day

by De Ana Thompson, Director, New Product & Business Development & Installation, Xerox Local Government Solutions

In the course of my 13+ years as a Chief Deputy Recorder-Clerk-Archivist for a large county in California, I personally witnessed a major transformation in the records management landscape, especially as digital options came on the scene. Through it all, and even today, one principle remains constant: records must be easily accessible for years to come. In honor of Electronic Records Day 2015, October 10th, there’s no better time to evaluate your agency’s current records management protocol.

Citizen information, land registries, building permits, emails/faxes – you name it and the U.S. government has a record of it, tracking pertinent information, actions, decisions and outcomes. That adds up to A LOT of information to keep track of year after year. As discussed in a previous post, many agencies have evolved from paper-based to electronically-based systems of record management in the wake of the Obama administration’s Digital Government Strategy.

There are a wealth of benefits to going digital, including improved business processes, increased productivity and constituent satisfaction. Still, many organizations – private and public – struggle to manage large quantities of documents effectively, especially those dealing with records dating way back.

Many agencies simply don’t have the right tools to manage and store records for easy retrieval. In fact, a recent Iron Mountain report found that 85 percent of 150 records management professionals in government are not fully convinced current records management practices are meeting agency needs.

As agencies and technology continue to evolve, records management can’t sit stagnant; efficient records management is vital to the whole organization. In addition to finding the right solution, agencies must also ensure that the system remains in compliance with legislation and security measures.

Whether you’re looking to completely revamp your records management system, or would just like to fine tune your current one, consider these best practice tips to help implement a successful program:

  1. Have the right technology in place – Today, there are many scalable electronic solutions that enable agencies to effectively gain control over the number of records in existence and those that need to be created on a daily basis. The right technology exists to manage and improve your program.
  2. Think about security – It’s crucial to be mindful of the sensitive and confidential data in your records. Make sure that your solution meets all federal data security and compliance requirements.
  3. Train your employees – Training is key. A records management system is merely a tool on its own. In order for it to be successful it needs to be user friendly and understood by all employees using the system.
  4. Create a retention plan – Understand the laws and regulations of maintaining your records. Remove or destroy records only with authorization; don’t retain records authorized for destruction.
  5. Archive when appropriate – Records may have historical or professional value to you or your organization in the future. It’s important that you know what records those are and how to archive them. If you’re unsure, you can ask your local historical society to come and review them with you.
  6. Make things easy to retrieve – It’s important that you index or label your information for timely and efficient retrieval
  7. Establish policies and procedures – Policies and procedures on how to maintain your records are essential so records are managed and maintained in a consistent manner.
  8. Make a complete inventory – Know your records and create a plan on how to transfer them to new media moving forward. The life expectancy of each of each records storage method differs, so it is important to know each – electronic, paper, tapes, film, fiche, discs, and others – and plan accordingly.
  9. Regular review and audit – Part of your procedures should be a review of your records periodically so that you can make sure your records are in good shape and that they are still retrievable. This is especially important with film, which may deteriorate over time.
  10. Establish ownership of your records – Your records are important and they become even more important when you can’t find something you need. So take ownership, and know their status at all times.

The importance of having a holistic view of records management systems and resources is critical for success. Where is your agency in the records management evolution cycle?

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