It’s harder and harder these days to find a records management environment that doesn’t combine both physical and electronic formats. Unfortunately, this “hybrid” records environment poses a number of significant challenges for records managers. In this blog post we offer tips and best practices to help you overcome the top five challenges when managing the hybrid records environment.
- Records identification: Avoid an either-or approach. It is rarely accurate to say something like: “all of our AP records are paper, but all of our HR records are electronic”. To help you accurately identify records, the key is to avoid this either/or approach. In the hybrid world, a record is a record is a record – regardless of the format it takes. Recognizing that a record may exist in either format is an essential starting point for successfully managing the hybrid environment.
- Controlling the records lifecycle: Use a common system. In the multi-format reality, records still need to be managed through a clearly defined lifecycle. And much like the challenge of record identification, there is a tendency for companies to manage lifecycles in different ways depending on the format. The key here is to implement common controls that apply to both paper and electronic formats over the entire lifecycle of a record. These controls may include:
- A records classification scheme
- A retention schedule
- Indexing structures
- Centralized storage
- Defining the official record: Establish a clear policy. In the hybrid environment, you should expect that multiple copies of a document might be circulating in multiple formats at any given time. For most organizations, this can really complicate the perennial records management question: which is the “official” record? To avoid this issue, it is critical that your records management program clearly defines which document, in which format, will count as the official record.
- Handling increased records volume: Regularly purge non-records. In the hybrid environment, both paper and electronic record volumes are on the rise. With space at a premium and budgets getting ever smaller, simply increasing your storage footprint is not an option for many companies. The answer is to get rid of the “non-records” in your collection, and knowing which document constitutes the official record (tip 3) makes it much easier to do this. It is essential to take regular steps to purge “convenience copies”, duplicates, records which have passed their retention period and any other unneeded documents that accumulate in the normal course of business.
- Getting user buy-in: Education and training are key. There isn’t much point in developing systems and policies for managing the hybrid records environment if no one in the organization adheres to them. The challenge is that most users are stuck in that either/or mentality derived from years of working in a paper-only environment, or from a general lack of knowledge of records management in the first place.Helping everyone in your organization understand that policies and procedures apply to all records, regardless of type or format, is critical for getting user buy- in. Successful tactics include lunch-and-learn sessions, informal group sessions, and incentivized learning workshops.