5 Steps for Merging RIM Programs: When Organizations Merge, Records and Information Management (RIM) Professionals Have a Prime Opportunity to Demonstrate Their Value by Ensuring That Information Assets Are Identified, Protected, and Successfully Integrated into a RIM Program Designed to Best Serve the Newly Created Entity

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As the economy slowly recovers, mergers and acquisitions will be on the rise once again. Records and information management (RIM) professionals must understand how this will affect their organizations.

To determine which organization's RIM program will be sustained after the merger, consider the answers to these questions:

Do both organizations have a RIM program? If so, what are the functionalities of each program and what functions do the programs play in each organization?

Which system makes the most fiscal sense? Does one system have more upfront costs? How do the systems compare in terms of long-term savings? A system with little set up costs may cost the organization more in the end. It might save more to spend money up front to organize everything and save time later because staff will not be making duplicate copies or searching for lost documents.

Which system will serve the organization better? Perhaps each organization involved in the merger or acquisition specializes in a different kind of business. Will either of the existing RIM programs accommodate the work that both sides do? Does one of them have a more flexible and accommodating program than the other? It is a mistake to assume that the larger entity has the better program.

Does either RIM program include any outstanding risk management issues? Identify any risk management or security issues associated with gaps in either program, including steps the organization has taken to address these concerns and what steps still need to be made to eliminate these risks.

Start with an Environmental Scan

To discover the answers to these questions, begin learning about the other organization and its RIM program as early as possible. As organizations begin the merger, take these steps to begin collecting the information you need:

Consult with the RIM professional in the acquired organization. Does the other organization have someone in a position similar to yours? If so, begin collaborating with him or her early in the process. If not, find out who is responsible for the RIM duties in the other organization. Maybe they are split among several people, or maybe they've been lumped together with other departments, such as information technology, risk management, or library.

Tour its office locations. Where does the other organization have its offices? Tour these locations to learn about its RIM program, see it in action, and get a feel for its RIM environment. While on the tour, notice whether the records' areas are neat or messy. What about individual work stations? Are there boxes lining the hallways? Are files stacked in empty offices or hiding in closets? A cluttered environment can often point to a failing RIM program. In addition, note whether the organization's program is centralized, decentralized, or electronic, and consider how that compares with yours. Quantify how much material the other organization has and in what types.

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Map each organization's staff's duties to the other. What is the layout of the other organization's workflow? Is there a match between staff duties? Review the job duties of employees outside the RIM department, as they might be doing tasks typically thought to be within RIM's scope.

Evaluate Lessons Learned

After the tours, interviews, and fact-finding missions, evaluate all the information. The concluding evaluation should be very detailed and have firm reasoning behind all decisions. Even if the answer about which organization's RIM program should take precedence seems to be apparent, run the numbers and options on both sides. If the initial reaction was correct, this step will provide even greater evidence to support the decision. Consider the following factors during the evaluation process:

Consider sunk investments. Which program has a greater sunk investment? Evaluate major purchases made by each side, software purchased, a commitment to certain types of materials, and the cost to switch from one system to the other. …