Three strategies to manage the hybrid records environment

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When we refer to the “hybrid records environment”, we are talking about a business environment in which records may exist in either paper or electronic formats.

Very few records management environments are solely paper or electronic these days, so the hybrid environment has really become the default situation.

However, that doesn’t make it any easier. Records managers in the hybrid environment are continually having to adapt to change. They may be moving some aspect of their records to electronic format, incorporating new business software, or they may simply be combating a growing volume of paper records alongside their electronic records.

Staying on top of the hybrid environment

Records managers are adopting several key strategies to manage and adapt to the hybrid environment. To help you optimize your hybrid environment, this blog post outlines a few key hybrid RM strategies:

1. Embrace the hybrid environment

The first and most important strategy is to embrace the realities of operating in a hybrid environment. This means several things:

  • Clearly specifying which format will be considered the official record for every record type. This eliminates ambiguity and the potential for lost records. (For example, deleting an official electronic record while mistakenly assuming that there was a paper original somewhere.)
  • Understanding that certain types record may exist in either format. For example, some accounts payable records may be received as paper invoices, while others may be received electronically in PDF format.
  • Following other hybrid environment best practices such as educating your staff specifically on hybrid records issues, policies and procedures.

2. Move more of your paper records into electronic format

As records come online and transition into electronic formats, the organization starts to build an “electronic infrastructure” that runs alongside paper systems. This infrastructure may include records management software, cloud storage systems and electronic document policies and processes. Smart organizations attempt to leverage this electronic infrastructure to get the maximum benefit from their investments in electronic technologies. The key to doing so is to bring even more records online through initiatives such as document imaging projects and implementing line-of-business software systems. The more records you can move to electronic the more value you’ll get from your electronic systems!

3. Reduce the amount of paper you create and retain

While few organizations could ever practically achieve an “electronic-only” environment, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. In fact, unless you actively work at minimizing paper use, you may quickly find that you are losing that side of the battle: studies have shown that volumes of paper records are actually on the rise, despite the emergence of electronic records.

The guiding mantra here is to go “paper light”, reducing the amount of paper created, stored and retained – whether the paper actually constitutes a record or not. This will help in several ways. It will stem the tide of paper records, save the organization money, and it will also make the rest of your hybrid records program more manageable.

While there is no silver bullet for hybrid records management, these strategies have proven to be very helpful for records managers as they attempt to adapt and optimize their hybrid programs.

You can learn more about these strategies in our Hybrid Records Management Toolkit. It includes a collection of white papers that will help you put these specific tips into action.

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