Magazine article Information Management

Audit to Ensure RIM Program Health, Growth

Magazine article Information Management

Audit to Ensure RIM Program Health, Growth

Article excerpt

Auditing your RIM program regularly can ensure its good health, the direction and focus for its continued growth, and its ultimate maturity.

The first time my records and information management (RIM) program was to be audited, flulike symptoms began to occur; I was nauseated, nervous, and wanted to go home. This pain was a result of the perception in my organization that audits were meant to look for failures or weaknesses in programs, processes, or systems. They were definitely something to avoid, if possible.

The audit was unannounced and I was not prepared. Because of my reaction, I missed the opportunity to find RIM champions to help drive improvement.

Unfortunately, the auditors did not understand RIM, and their prescribed findings and recommendations did not offer me improvements that were based on any standards. As a result, program growth and maturity went unrealized. I had to work harder for change.

I vowed this would not happen again; once was enough for me. I changed my point of view and focused on the future. Now, the flu-like symptoms don't happen anymore. Today, I believe that audits, approached correctly, are to be valued by the organization and the group being audited. Audits should serve as tools for improvement to make programs strong and vibrant, as well as for recognition of work being done well.

How then should audits be conducted? What are the elements of a RIM program audit?

Value of an Audit

The value proposition for a routine RIM program audit needs to be stated and align with the program's mission to support the corporate mission. Auditing the RIM program or function enables an organization to minimize risk and promote services that drive the business forward by:

* Ensuring RIM operations are efficient and effective in meeting program goals and objectives

* Finding and recommending corrections for those practices and behaviors that minimize value

* Preventing unhealthy practices or behaviors from becoming commonplace

To continue realizing this value, audit practices must be normalized and anticipated as improvement opportunities. Left unmeasured, RIM programs, at best, may not meet the demands of the organization. At worst, they may ignore legal requirements and risks that can cost the organization unnecessary resources.

Planning, preparing, and creating meaningful measurement criteria are the keys to a successful audit. These criteria ensure that the audit will be objective, well-communicated, and offer opportunities for improvements that are realistic and achievable.

Audits are cyclical by nature and executed in phases: 1) planning and scheduling, 2) audit execution, and 3) improvement review.

Core Elements of an Audit

The success of an audit begins with careful planning. Planning, as well as the other phases, requires input and action by a team of people.

This is best aligned as a joint effort between RIM management, executive management, and the audit personnel. This team develops and documents the core elements, which include:

* Scoping the audit

* Defining the goal and intent

* Determining team members

* Creating checklists

* Scheduling and timing the audits

* Developing measurements and improvement options

* Establishing a communication plan for all phases

Scoping the Audit

To determine the scope and breadth of the audit, several factors should be considered, including the age and complexity of the program; whether it is the program components or compliance to the program that are to be evaluated; and whether this is a follow-up audit to determine whether previous noncompliance or risks have been resolved. (This should take precedence before auditing a low-risk area.)

Defining the Goal

Setting the audit's goal as program improvement and organizational compliance is great, but for a fairly new program, an initial goal should be to evaluate employees' understanding of the program's services and requirements. …

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