Magazine article Information Management

The Principles Assessment as a Collaborative Tool

Magazine article Information Management

The Principles Assessment as a Collaborative Tool

Article excerpt

John Isaza, Esq., FAI--a 24-year veteran attorney with a dozen years of records and information management (RIM) experience who works for international law firm Rimon PC--regularly uses the Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles[R] (the Principles) and the Information Governance Maturity Model (Maturity Model) in his work for clients. (See for more information about the Principles.)

The majority of his time, about 65%, is spent doing compliance assessments and audits of existing programs, and the rest is devoted to formulating new RIM and/or information governance programs.

One of Isaza's main tools for accomplishing this work has been ARMA International's automated Principles Assessment tool. His first-hand experience has yielded several insights on how to use this tool most effectively in real-world environments and provides many lessons learned that will be useful for RIM practitioners.

Conducting the Assessment

The Principles Assessment is a computer-based tool that provides an automated way to determine how an entity's information management practices measure up against the Maturity Model.

The tool requires answers to 100 questions related to the eight principles: accountability, transparency, integrity, protection, compliance, availability, retention, and disposition. By selecting the answer that most closely matches the current situation, the Principles Assessment will calculate a score for each principle. The scores correlate to levels ranging from i to 5, with I being substandard and 5 being considered transformational. The Principles Assessment can be used for a single department, a division, or the entire organization.

As with all tools, there are tips and techniques that can enhance the usefulness of the assessment. Isaza's solid consulting experience has yielded several pointers that he generously shares here.

Involve Others

"Don't just do it all yourself," cautions Isaza. In situations where the records manager performs the entire assessment, there is the risk of rating too high or too low on various program aspects, and the outcome will be subjective and, therefore, less credible. Isaza advises that the best way to ensure objectivity is to get responses from others in the organization. How to do this can be challenging, though.

"Don't think that you can just send the tool to everyone in the firm and have them answer questions on their own," advises Isaza. Many questions seem to be redundant from one principle to the next, but they actually have a different context and may need clarification for those who are not involved with RIM as their primary responsibility. "What's more," says Isaza, "Each question must be answered before going on to the next, and people will not necessarily be able or willing to do this."

Use Facilitated Workshops

Isaza has found that workshops can be an ideal setting for a collaborative use of the Principles Assessment, and his experience with four clients in diverse industries--automotive, non-profit, insurance, and financial services--has proven that this approach works.

A workshop is a way to gather several people in a single place and poll them for their opinions and perceptions of RIM. The workshop setting also offers a relaxed atmosphere where discussion and informal RIM education can take place.

Preparing--Advance preparation is key, however. Isaza notes, "If you choose a workshop setting, recognize that you will need to do some preparation. First, and most importantly, you will need to have someone with RIM knowledge in the room to help with explanations where needed."

According to Isaza, it is unrealistic to expect to get through the tool's 100 questions in a workshop lasting an hour and a half. The best practice is for the RIM manager to spend time analyzing which questions should be presented to the workshop group and which can best be answered in advance. …

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