Why uncertain economic times are a great time to promote your RM program

Posted by TAB on

We live in uncertain economic times, and as organizations rethink spending priorities, some records management professionals worry about their ability to maintain program resources and continue adding value for their organizations.

The good news is that whatever the financial weather, a solid records management program helps organizations meet accountability and compliance requirements; it can save organizations money; and it can help manage risk while ensuring business continuity.

This post looks at how records managers can use the current situation to strengthen and promote their program as a strategic corporate resource with significant potential to help guide their company through tough times.

1.0 Accountability and compliance

New statutes, detailed regulatory rules, increased accountability to trade clearinghouses, and reclassification of companies to support regulation under existing legislation—how can records management help their organizations meet those challenges?

1.1 Access

Increased regulation has meant greater requirements for businesses to account for such activities as credit rating, asset valuation, shareholder administration and results reporting, to name a few.

Such accountability may take the form of document submission requirements, executive sign-off on certain transactions, new avenues for litigation, and increased powers of audit for the regulators themselves.

In all these instances, records play a critical role as both informational support for, and recorded evidence of, corporate activities. Established records management tools, such as functional records classifications, electronic metadata taxonomies, and physical file labeling help provide fast access to the reliable information necessary to answer tough questions.

1.2 Retention

As a strategic risk management tool, a records retention schedule should be based on careful research of all applicable requirements and their impact on actual records created, received and used by the organization. As those requirements continue to evolve, the effective records manager will stay on top of legislative changes by:

  • documenting the requirements,
  • mapping them to affected records categories,
  • and ensuring compliant application to paper and electronic records across the enterprise.

2.0 The need for cost savings

For the strategically minded records manager, the challenge of space planning costs is nothing new. As many organizations’ physical file collections have grown in pace with expanding business activity and shrinking workspace availability, records managers have found themselves in the potentially awkward position of having to store more content in less space.

This can be accomplished by:

  • Developing and implementing corporate policies distinguishing official records from “transitory” or “non-record” material, such as duplicate copies, minor drafts, and outdated reference material. Such material can account for 30 to 70 percent of the records storage space used in an organization, even though there is no legal or business requirement to keep the material beyond its immediate usefulness.
  • Explaining records retention programming to your management team by emphasizing the role of a records retention schedule as a due diligence tool and legal authority for freeing up storage resources otherwise occupied by outdated information and evidence.
  • Switching to filing products and equipment that allow for more efficient use of available floor space. For example, a lateral filing system with end-tab folders, color-coded labels and high-density mobile shelving can reduce the floor space (and thus the monthly costs) necessary to store records by more than 60 per cent.

3.0 Ensuring business continuity and managing risk

Strategic management of recorded information and evidence can play a critical role in maximizing business opportunities.

3.1 Mergers and acquisitions

Corporate acquisitions and restructuring provide an opportunity for your program to bring divergent recordkeeping strands together and to optimize informational potential, minimize corporate risk and ensure ongoing efficiency.

At the governance level, RM can improve legal risk management. Records retention schedules can and should draw on legal requirements from all applicable areas of law and legal jurisdictions. In the case of a corporate merger or major asset acquisition, this will require you to stay on top of corporate impacts by expanding or updating the legal research behind the schedules to reflect any legal baggage brought by the newly acquired assets.

From a service standpoint, you should position your department to offer consolidation and conversion services, which bring together related files from previously separate entities. These services can improve the reliability and integrity of corporate information by:

  • reducing duplicate documents,
  • identifying and mitigating informational gaps,
  • and standardizing the labeling, indexing and other tools by which collections are managed.

Once your governance tools and service offerings are in place, don’t wait for restructuring to be announced before making your offerings known. Take them to market using internal communication tools such as newsletters and bulletins, lunch-and-learn sessions and corporate committees.

By making the value of your program known at a general level, you will be better positioned to play a role in the change management process when it is appropriate for you to do so.

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