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6 guidelines for restarting corporate records programs

Don’t just restart, rethink

Restarting your records program? As the economy begins to improve, many companies are either revamping or in some cases restarting their corporate records programs. The information governance landscape has changed in the past five years; technology can help you manage through the growing amount of information and new regulatory and compliance issues that you face. If you are doing a “reboot” then consider it as an excellent opportunity to rethink your practices so your program can add more value to the organization. Here are some key areas to consider:

1. Make electronic documents a central focus

Many older records programs were created in an era dominated by paper documents. Today, in most organizations more than 96 percent of all information and more than 90 percent of all records are either created or received in electronic format. Paper-based paradigms and processes don’t always map well to electronic. Take an electronic-centric approach, and start treating paper more as an exception.

2. Determine program scope

Is your program only about records compliance, or does it include e-discovery, IT risk compliance, privacy and data security? Few organizations starting new programs focus exclusively on records. Increasingly, companies can achieve economies of scale when managing documents and data by combining compliance initiatives. Doing so, however, can make the establishment of roles and responsibilities challenging, especially in larger organizations. Think this through.

3. Organize your steering committee

Who will own policy development and program execution? In a world of digital information, we find this is often a shared responsibility among legal, compliance, IT and the business units. There is a “win” for all stakeholders, so why “go it alone”? Form a cross-functional committee to guide the effort, especially if your program requires a new technology component.

4. Assess your internal skills

If your current records team is used to dealing only with paper, then relaunching your program exclusively with this team is likely to generate a continuation of a paper-based approach. Take a skills inventory of your team and consider additional training, recruiting or enlisting outside help to develop necessary expertise.

5. Decide when to relaunch

Timing is important, both in life and when relauching your program. Synchronize the launch with other initiatives, and create realistic timelines. Break big projects into small pieces.

6. Get tactical in an imperfect world

While timing is important, it is also true that rarely is the timing ideal. Too often companies wait for either the perfect time frame or until they’ve developed perfect policies. Information governance is an inherently imperfect process, so striving for perfection often leads to never really starting. It’s better to put a good (albeit imperfect) program in place today, and work to improve it over time.

Key Takeaways

  • Many companies are restarting or revamping their records programs.
  • Be sure that your program focuses on electronic information.
  • Don’t do these alone – create a steering committee with legal, IT and other stakeholders.
  • Make sure you have the right internal skills.
  • Be smart on your timing and execution, but don’t wait for the perfect moment which may never arrive.


Legal Information Is Not Legal Advice

Contoural provides information regarding business, compliance and litigation trends and issues for educational and planning purposes. However, legal information is not the same as legal advice -- the application of law to an individual or organization's specific circumstances. Contoural and its consultants do not provide legal advice. Readers should consult with competent legal counsel for professional assurance that our information, and any interpretation of it, is appropriate to each reader’s particular situation. Copyright © Contoural, Inc. 2013

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Mark Diamond

Mark Diamond, Founder & CEO of Contoural, Inc., is a regular contributor to Inside Counsel on Litigation Readiness and Records Information Management. You can e-mail...

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