The ISO 15489 Imperative: Even Organizations without RIM Problems Can Benefit from an ISO-Driven Records Management "Health Check"

By McLean, Bob | Information Management, November-December 2002 | Go to article overview

The ISO 15489 Imperative: Even Organizations without RIM Problems Can Benefit from an ISO-Driven Records Management "Health Check"


McLean, Bob, Information Management


At the Core

This article:

* Describes the business benefits from applying ISO 15489

* Explains how these can be communicated to senior management

Managing corporate records is not easy. In fact, numerous recent headline cases have brought to the public's attention the pressing need for a high-quality, standardized approach to records and information management (RIM). The highly competitive marketplace demands that companies are easy to do business with and efficient but flexible. Public bodies must meet the ever-rising expectations of their customers in the face of budget cuts and funding justification. The recently published international

standard ISO 15489 plays a crucial role in helping organizations meet their goals through best practice in managing their information assets.

ISO 15489 represents a major milestone for the worldwide community of people whose job it is to help manage corporate records. The standard is written specifically to bring significant business benefits through its implementation. One objective, stated in Clause 4 of the standard, is to "integrate records management into business systems and processes," thereby providing sources of information that can support business activities and decisions, as well as ensure accountability to all stakeholders.

ISO 15489 is not a "tick-the-box-for-compliance" type of standard. Its developers have recognized that the business drivers in private and public enterprises are quite different, that various sectors have differing information needs and widely varying business goals. Nevertheless, the principles and methodologies contained in the standard are equally applicable in the medium-sized charity, the small engineering enterprise, the global pharmaceutical company, or the European financial institution.

However, if RIM professionals want their organizations to adopt ISO 15489, they must prepare a business case that expresses those benefits in terms that CEOs and their colleagues can immediately relate to.

Business Benfits

In essence, a business case is a set of arguments, logically developed and supported by relevant facts, that is presented to management to enable them to decide whether or not to commit time and resources to a particular change in the way things are done. There are many ways of presenting a business case, and each organization probably has its own preferred style. A senior manager would expect to see information about why a proposal is being made, the costs and other resource implications, benefits, risks, how changes will be managed, and the timeframes involved.

The key issues for most senior managers are to increase revenue, improve quality, reduce costs, and manage risks. Management usually sees supporting services such as records management as yet another cost to be justified, minimized, or eliminated. Historically, the tendency has been to express the benefits of RIM programs in the form of savings on storage costs, fewer forms, and the like. ISO 15489, if applied intelligently to business, will provide not only an information and records "health check," but also

* identify opportunities to improve an organization's quality of services or products and, thereby, contribute to its profitability

* support efforts to reduce the organization's exposure to risks and, therefore, its potential for losses

The key stakeholders whose interests will be met by implementing the standard are managers who may not be familiar with the advantages of good records management or aware of the consequences of its absence--for example, the executive board, legal department, sales and production, and information systems. For each of these groups, which particular benefits would appeal and how could ISO 15489 help them?

The Executives

Charged with developing strategic vision, running the company, and being accountable for the results, executives are concerned about corporate governance. …

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