Writing a RIM Request for Proposal: Clearly Defining the Business Need and Carefully Outlining Requirements Will Allow the Records and Information Management Professional to Craft an RFP That Will Result in the Best Vendor and Product Solution

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Writing a records and information management (RIM) request for proposal (RFP) can be a significant undertaking that will require resources from many different departments, including those responsible for original documents, records management, support areas such as IT, and key stakeholders with corporate compliance and budget responsibility.

An RFP effort will typically begin when a department identifies a need. For example, the IT department may be assigned to research and implement a records management system (RMS) that will work seamlessly with existing document creation software, as well as with existing paper records. The business requirements that are driving the project may involve compliance with regulations such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), as well as with accounting issues.

Planning should begin with understanding the variables that may exist for the RIM opportunity. These are only a few of the questions that should be asked during the planning stage to help the organization understand what technologies will be required for an RMS and what solutions may be possible.

1. Is there an RMS or electronic document management system (EDMS)? If not, the project, then, is not dependent on any other system, and the new system must handle both existing paper records and electronic files.

2. If there is an existing RMS, what does it manage? Can the data about each record be migrated to a new system? If the new system will be a replacement, why is the current system not effective?

3. If there is an existing EDMS, what documents or content does it manage? Can the index data and documents be migrated to a new system? Does the vendor have a records management component that can be used, or will the project require looking to a third-party RMS that can be integrated with the existing EDMS? Note that there may be several EDMS systems in use in a large corporation, in which case the project is even more complex.

4. Is there an existing records retention schedule and file plan? If not, these should be addressed in parallel with, or prior to, writing an RFP for the RMS, as they are key components of an electronic document and records management system (EDRMS).

5. What types of records will the RMS need to include? Will paper documents be part of the RMS as well as a diverse number of electronic documents?

Many vendors have combined RM and EDMS capabilities into one system such that RM functions are invoked (e.g., declare, classify) when the document is created or received. Once a record is declared and classified, the system may also automatically assign indexing and metadata to the record based on contextual information.

While it is possible to purchase and implement a standalone RM system, such systems are designed to work with an existing document management system. Therefore, it seems that one cannot consider a records management system without considering a document management system. Writing an RFP for a records management system is actually like writing an RFP for two systems, and each must include sufficient detail for the vendors to provide adequate responses.

Initial Need Identification

After the need for an RMS has been determined, the first step is a preliminary analysis to determine what is involved in providing a solution to the problem or need. This initial study may be a high-level review that lists basic issues, the risks involved in not taking further action, the benefits of solving the problem, and the resources needed to move forward. The outcome of this task is to clarify the need more formally, provide enough information to proceed, suggest alternate means of solving the problem, or recommend that the team stop any further work. The report may also identify the departments to be implemented based on prioritized business issues, risks, and compliance needs, and suggest that any system be implemented in a limited fashion with full rollout over a period of years. …