We encounter many organizations that struggle with the relatively new dynamic of the hybrid records environment. Unlike the good old days, more and more organizations are having to deal with records in both paper and electronic format. Many kinds of records are equally likely to found in either format.
Figuring out how to handle the dual format isn’t the only challenge. The hybrid environment is characterized by growing volumes of both formats that are showing up in all kinds of new places. Records can now exist in cloud storage services, shared drives, business software applications as well as widely disparate physical locations.
Getting a handle on hybrid: five best practices
To help you manage the challenges of the hybrid environment, TAB recommends five key best practices.
- Avoid an “either-or” approach to identifying records. This is a key concept in the new hybrid reality. Your records management program needs to allow for the fact that an official record may exist in either paper or electronic format.
- Address the complete lifecycle of all records, regardless of format. This is a basic records management practice that is even more essential in the new reality than it was in the old. The lifecycle controls should include a records classification scheme, retention schedule, indexing structures, and centralized storage for both paper and electronic records. By applying a single, overarching set of controls, you avoid the pitfall of having to manage different systems for different formats.
- Always identify the official record. In the hybrid environment, multiple copies of documents abound! Any single document may exist electronically on local computers and shared drives, and also in printed copies on desks and in your file room. To address this situation, your records management program needs to prescribe which document, in which format, will count as the official record. This allows you to conduct a timely destruction of records according to your retention schedule.
- Conduct regular purges of non-records. With all these copies floating around, it is important to take regular steps to keep them in check. Once you have identified which document is the official record, it becomes easier and less risky to purge all those unneeded “convenience copies” that take up space and create legal risk.
- Know the law. Different jurisdictions handle the hybrid environment in different ways. In some cases, the law may allow for imaged records to take the place of the original paper record. This is great because it allows organizations to reduce paper volumes through document imaging programs. However, you need to be absolutely clear on the law and understand when you are required to keep the paper copy as the legally recognized official record.
While the hybrid environment is a relatively new development in the history of RM, the basic practices for managing records still apply!