Magazine article Information Management

Controlling Your Documents: Consider the Merits of Starting out with Straightforward Document Management as a Way to Socialize Good Document Practices, Providing a Realizable Path to Electronic Records Management

Magazine article Information Management

Controlling Your Documents: Consider the Merits of Starting out with Straightforward Document Management as a Way to Socialize Good Document Practices, Providing a Realizable Path to Electronic Records Management

Article excerpt

For many organizations, it is simply too ambitious to steamroll ahead with an enterprise-wide technology deployment for electronic records management (ERM) and hope to succeed. That is because most organizations have general information management, user behavior, and culture issues that will hamstring any new technology initiative, let alone a rigorous ERM program coupled with a technology rollout.

In many large, distributed organizations, for example, there is a general culture of decentralization and autonomy at the business unit or workgroup level, so trying to mandate new records management practices for electronic records may be an uphill battle. In environments like these, there are often significant issues with ERM at the departmental level, such as a lack of standards for managing electronic information, a lack of common tools, and little or no training around general document management.

In these situations, the best path to successful ERM may be to start by instilling some rigor and technology for electronic document management and control at the departmental level. For example, organizations can deploy workgroup-level document management technology solutions in the near term while simultaneously rolling out common information organization structures and educating users about proper practices.

A staged approach like this can deliver immediate business benefits to users, encouraging adoption while positioning the organization to succeed with broad-based ERM implementations in the future.

First Step: Weighing the Requirements

A good place to start is by looking at the organization's current state and business drivers for ERM. Business drivers typically are divided into two categories:

* Defensive: compliance, risk reduction, reducing the cost of information discovery for audits or litigation, and business continuity. These drivers are usually important to all companies but are of a higher priority for public companies or businesses in heavily regulated industries.

* Offensive: improving customer service, saving time, streamlining operations, and eliminating redundancies or unnecessary tasks

IT's mission is to deliver on the offensive and defensive business drivers in a cost-effective and efficient manner while leveraging existing technology investments and resources.

Certainly, defensive drivers are the catalysts for maW organizations to get serious about their technology strategies for records management. Organizations address the problem because they have to; they determine that the risks (be they regulatory, financial, legal, or customer perception) are too high not to have a highly regimented and structured approach to centralized ERM.

But that does not necessarily describe the situation for every company and certainly not with respect to all the electronic documents within all the business areas of a typical organization. A significant volume of electronic documents may be work files, supporting information, or other files that are not necessarily important to control from a regulatory or compliance perspective.

It is important to manage this content from a records management viewpoint. But if an organization is not currently enforcing ERM practices across the enterprise, it is fairly ambitious to try to roll out a comprehensive electronic records program along with a new technology implementation that represents even more change to the way people do their jobs. If the initiative is perceived as a mandate or an intrusion, or as overly complex for users, it is destined to fall short of expectations.

Focus on User Benefits and Adoption

Assuming that compliance or regulatory exposure is not a major issue, organizations should address their offensive business drivers instead. By concentrating on improving operational efficiency and making life easier for users, they will greatly increase their chances for success. …

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