Strategies for Developing and Strengthening Records Management Programs

Article excerpt

Ask today's business owners, company executives, managers, and people at all levels who work in office environments and they'll be unanimous in telling you that "the volume of recorded information - the avalanche of data and records - is continuing to grow in all organizations." Administrators and personnel in all levels of federal, state, and local governments say the same thing - "the numbers of paper documents, electronic records, and all forms of recorded information continue to increase."

In most organizations, databases are expanding, filing cabinets are filling up and more cabinets are being acquired, more boxes are filled with inactive records, and other storage systems are being added. Paperwork and records arrive in the mail, documents and other records are created internally - and the growth continues.

The results - in most organizations - are stuffed filing cabinets, overflowing boxes of inactive paperwork, increasing numbers of diskettes, growing databases, increasing image bases, costly delays, misplaced or lost documents, information that can't be quickly retrieved, lost business opportunities, frustrated office personnel, and executives and managers or administrators who are forced to work with and make decisions based on inadequate records and information.

Managerially - in order to be responsive to customers' or clients' needs and to be competitive and successful - most companies and organizations need to improve the organization-wide management of their data and records. Reality is that we are living and working in an "impatient age" in which people want service and they want it now! If you can find the records or access the data relative to the customers or clients seeking service, you can meet their needs - and if you can't find their records or access their data, they'll be tempted to take their business someplace else! The results are that we are more dependent than ever before on having almost instant access to data and records as a basis for quality customer and client service and ultimately to our organizations' profitability, competitiveness, and success.

ELECTRONIC RECORDS ARE GROWING EXPONENTIALLY IN VOLUME

Electronic records are "records that are in machine-readable rather than in human-readable form." Electronic records may be any combination of text, data, graphics, video, or audio information that is created, maintained, modified, or transmitted in digital form by a computer or related system. Electronic records are maintained on several physical media - diskettes, computer hard drive disks, disk packs, tape, RAID units, CD-ROMs, optical disks, and related media.

The volume of electronic records is growing exponentially because of business necessity, because of increasingly powerful and easy-to-use hardware and software, and because of needs to provide faster and better service to customers in order to gain and maintain a competitive edge. Electronic records created by the traditional personal computer application programs - word processing, spreadsheets, databases - are growing in volume faster than ever.

Rapid expansion in implementation of e-mail systems, the ease of downloading records from the Internet, and the trend to convert more and more paper business forms to electronic forms add more and more records. And the increasing implementation of electronic document management (imaging) systems and records being created by scientific and medical instrumentation as well as with video and audio records combine to result in growing volumes of records in electronic form.

PILES BECOME MOUNTAINS

The greatest volume of records continues to be in the form of paper documents. In fact, recent estimates indicate that between 80 and 90 percent of all records in the average organization are paper records. While the growth in the number of electronic document management systems is resulting in higher percentages of documents being maintained electronically, the continued business growth rate continues to cause more paper records to be maintained in most organizations each year than the previous year! …