After a merger or acquisition, consolidating file collections becomes a necessary but resource-intensive proposition for records managers. If it isn’t done right, it can have a negative impact on your organization’s ability to operate.
When your organization acquires new business assets and operations, it inherits all the records that support those assets and operations. You need to know: are those records subject to standard RM controls; and how consistent are those controls with the ones you’ve worked so hard to develop and deploy on behalf of the acquiring organization?
The steps outlined in this blog are your starting point in assessing incoming file collections, both physical and electronic. Working through them will help you address the legal requirements, business risks and practical needs associated with managing your newly acquired records collections.
Step 1: Start Intake Planning
As soon as possible, meet with incoming records management staff to identify all records collections being acquired. Make sure to cover:
- Records created or received in all formats
- Records of all business activities, from core operations to internal administration
- All records – active, semi-active, or inactive records stored off-site
For each file collection, you need to identify:
- The collection title
- Its format and location
- The key documents within it
- The risks / compliance issues associated with it
Step 2: Perform a Program Assessment
Standardizing records management controls across new and old collections are one of your biggest tasks when it comes to integration. Start that process by answering these questions:
- Were incoming records previously governed by a records management policy or similar governance tool?
- Were incoming records managed subject to a Corporate Records Classification or similar retrieval tool which covers all file collections and specific key documents?
- Are incoming records subject to a records retention schedule or other tool that standardizes how long records are kept?
Step 3: Conduct a Collection Level Audit
To manage all this new information, you need to know precisely what data the collections contain. Your investigation should include answers to these questions:
- If the collection was subject to a retention schedule, does existing content meet minimum retention periods?
- If records from the collection were destroyed, were all disposals subject to documented authorization?
- Do individual files contain all key documents identified by regulators or otherwise required for business?
Step 4: Implement an Action Plan
If you identify gaps in protection between the old and new records management strategies, establish a checklist to help pinpoint action items that respond directly to the unique file collections, risks, and needs associated with the acquisition.
Start that checklist by first developing:
- A new Records Management Policy or updating existing governance tool to cover all business records.
- A new Corporate Records Classification or updating existing classification to cover all file collections and key documents.
- New records retention schedules or updating existing schedules to cover all file collections and incorporate legal requirements from all relevant legal jurisdictions.
Mergers and acquisitions bring opportunity to your organization and, through proactive application of RM best practices, you can help all interested parties make the most of a potentially trying organizational change.
- For more questions, as well as checklists and work sheets, download the complete Merger and Acquisition Intake Assessment Tool.
- Read more about Records Management Best Practices for Mergers and Acquisitions here.
- Talk to a TAB representative about streamlining your records management systems after an acquisition.