A four-step approach to onboarding acquired file collections – Part One

Posted by TAB on

Corporate transactions create a lot of work for records management teams.

For example, as a deal comes together, we are often asked to make records available for the discovery process. This can involve setting up temporary records rooms to facilitate reviews of key documents by the acquiring party.

The work really begins once the deals are done and we start the massive process of integrating the acquired records collections into a common system.

A disciplined approach is key

Unfortunately, incoming file collections (both paper and electronic) can be a real surprise package. Unless you take steps to understand what you’re dealing with and onboard the collections in an orderly way, you run the risk of:

  • lost or misplace records
  • excessive duplication of documents
  • inconsistent application of standards
  • lost productivity. 

Getting a handle on the challenge

TAB has decades of experience in reviewing and consolidating file collections for major corporate mergers and acquisitions.

Our experience is captured in the following four steps. By using these steps before and during the acquisition, you’ll find it much easier to address the legal requirements, business risks, and practical aspects of the onboarding process.

Step One – Intake Planning

As soon as possible in the process you want to meet with the incoming records management staff or corporate stakeholders. One of the first tasks is to get a complete map of the records involved. This identification process should be as encompassing as possible, including records in any format, as well as both active and inactive file collections. For each individual collection, you want to gather all the key information, such as the type of records involved and any risks or potential issues specific to that collection. You want to be sure you have a thorough, high-level understanding of the collections involved and their unique requirements.

Step Two – RM Program Assessment

One of the biggest tasks in integrating newly acquired file collections is to standardize your RM program across all records. To do this, you need to first assess the program controls in place for each incoming collection. The questions to ask include: Are classification schemes and retention schedules in place? Are they being enforced? What software is being used to track files? Are outside storage providers meeting security and privacy criteria? Understanding these basic program elements will help you address gaps and key requirements during the onboarding process for each collection.

Step Three – Collection-Level Audits

This step dives a little deeper into the collections, exploring the state of each one on an individual basis. Questions to ask include: Have expired records been destroyed? Do individual files contain all key documents required by law? Do the files meet privacy requirements? Do folders, labels and electronic storage systems support end-user requirements? One of the key benefits to this step is to understand what housecleaning might be required on individual collections before they are integrated. Migrating “clean” collections saves a lot of time and hassle later on.

These first three steps will give you a thorough understanding of what will be required to integrate all the collections. In next week’s blog post, we’ll look at the fourth and final step, which is to create a prioritized plan for the integration.

Next Steps

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