Magazine article Information Management

The Principles at Work at Ameritas: Planning a Unified Approach for Managing E-Records

Magazine article Information Management

The Principles at Work at Ameritas: Planning a Unified Approach for Managing E-Records

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

As the second vice president of corporate facilities at Ameritas, an insurance and financial services mutual holding company headquartered in Lincoln, Nebraska, Robin Martin, CBCP, FLMI, has responsibility for business continuity, purchasing, and project management of new construction underway in Cincinnati. (See Martin's career overview on the next page.)

Martin assumed leadership for records and information management (RIM) in 2011, an organizational move that made sense given her understanding and awareness of records concepts earned through her experience with Ameritas. Up to this point, the Ameritas records program had been mostly focused on paper records, with an in-house records storage facility and a Lotus Notes database to manage storage and retrieval of boxes. Retention schedules had also been developed, but actual disposition of outdated records was primarily of hard copy records.

Around this time, the company realized it needed to apply records principles to focus on disposion of electronic, as well as paper records. Soon the discussion turned to where responsibility for electronic records should reside, and while a case could be made for management by information technology (IT), it was ultimately decided that the data and records belonged to the various business areas. It was determined that a unified, strategic approach was needed when it came to electronic records, and Martin was tasked with overseeing this.

Getting Started

As an initial step, Ameritas engaged Huron Consulting to assess its records and information management program based on the Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles[R] (Principles) and the Information Governance Maturity Model (Maturity Model). Huron determined that pre-existing RIM efforts had many elements of the Principles in place, although they had not necessarily been identified or categorized as such. Using the Maturity Model, Huron was able to determine objectively where various RIM aspects were adequate and address areas that the company might want to consider for enhancement or improvement.

"One of Ameritas' requests was that assessment results be conveyed as descriptive findings rather than as numeric ratings," says Martin. "There was concern that if we got a numerical score, what would it mean and how would others interpret it? More description was necessary, rather than numbers, and we were able to do this with the definitions that the tool provides. We were also able to explain what the various levels --Sub-standard, In Development, Essential, Proactive, and Transformational --meant when we presented the assessment results to the steering team."

From the assessment, Huron developed a five-year plan, defining activities aimed at improving or enhancing various program elements that would strengthen the program and position Ameritas for effective management of electronic records.

Establishing Accountability

"For [the Principle of] Accountability, for example, Ameritas did not previously have a corporate records officer in place," said Martin. "This was addressed with a formal infrastructure that now includes a steering team comprised of legal, IT and RIM. In addition, all departments have department records administrators, usually people at management level who are ultimately accountable and responsible for RIM.

"There are also records coordinators, the doers who make sure that work gets done, that training takes place, and that retention schedules are reviewed and refreshed on a regular basis," she said. Large departments in bigger lines of business may also have departmental records representatives.

Enhancing Retention

To enhance the Principle of Retention and prepare for applying retention periods to electronic records, retention schedules were consolidated across all fines of business and their regulatory requirements reviewed in 2011. …

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