Magazine article Information Management

The Principles at Work in Cargill: Tools for Assessment, Communication

Magazine article Information Management

The Principles at Work in Cargill: Tools for Assessment, Communication

Article excerpt

Editor's Note: Past issues of Information Management magazine have featured a series of articles discussing the individual components of the Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles [R] (the Principles) and the potential benefit of using its complementary Information Governance Maturity Model (Maturity Model) to assess recordkeeping effectiveness. This article, the first in a series, shares the knowledge of an information professional who has implemented the Principles and who generously shares her experience.

Cheryl L. Pederson, CRM, FAI, is the global records and information manager for Cargill, an international producer and marketer of food, agricultural, and industrial products and financial services headquartered in Minneapolis. Founded in 1865, it has grown to become one of the largest privately held companies in the world, employing 140,000 people in more than 65 countries.

Beginning her career with Cargill in 1972, Pederson held legal secretary, paralegal, and legal records administrator positions in the law department, then moved on to manage corporate records. She has managed the records and information management (RIM) function within Cargill since 1998.

"Cargill has always had records management - there are retention schedules dating back to the early 1950s - and the Principles have always been part of the RIM program," said Pederson, "Perhaps not spelled out the way they are now. Most of the Principles are part of the records lifecycle, the idea that information must be managed from creation through disposition."

Taking RIM on the Road

One of the first challenges Pederson took on was finding a way to instill accountability for records management in diverse business units. The current RIM organization structure began in November 2002, when Cargill created a task force comprising representatives from the audit, RIM, tax, and controller functions, and went on the road to visit the organization's largest business units to find out how records were being managed in the field.

The project lasted six months, culminating in a presentation to Cargill's chief executive officer that was allotted 20 minutes on the agenda, but lasted an hour, largely because the executives present had all been in the field during their careers and recognized the challenges of recordkeeping, the records silos that evolve, and the need for a standardized approach.

Creating RIM Center of Expertise

With sponsorship from the vice president and senior controller, Pederson formed the Records and Information Management Center of Expertise (RIM COE) to provide records management policies, procedures, best practices, consulting, and training to Cargill business units.

The RIM COE functions on a global basis to manage paper and electronic records. Pederson's staff of eight includes five records managers, whom she describes as "passionate" about what they do, with expertise in retention schedules, databases, and other specialties, such as electronic records and data archiving.

One of Cargill's major accomplishments has been to extend the Principle of Accountability far beyond the RIM department, putting in place a global RIM organization structure.

Pederson explained, "RIM reports through Finance and the Controller's organization. Controllers have major responsibility for RIM at Cargill and have responsibilities regarding records management that are considered part of their job performance. The Controller's organization appointed approximately 225 records coordinators around the world - many of them management level. Each of them has site coordinators at their location - so there are about 1,000 people involved."

There are also four RIM region managers who are available to answer questions within their region, so help is available regardless of time zone differences.

General objectives for each coordinator include tasks associated with the Principles of Integrity, Retention, and Disposition. …

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