Spring is in the air–birds are chirping, flowers are starting to bloom, and the trees are starting to come alive again. The sun is out, it’s time to open the windows, bring out the cleaning supplies, and start spring cleaning. You clean and declutter your house come springtime, so why not spring clean your records?
April is Records and Information Management Month, a celebration of the value of organizing and maintaining records and data. But the end of April doesn’t mean that you should shove those records into a closet and close the door until next spring. It’s important to give your records attention throughout the year, but sometimes we all need that extra boost to get us motivated. Spring is an excellent time to review your organization’s approach to recordkeeping. Here are a few tips to kick your spring records cleaning into high gear.
Plan Ahead – Evaluate Your Organization’s Needs and Know Your Risk
Much like gathering the cleaning supplies you need to get the job done, it’s important to assess the situation before you take a deep dive and start tossing records with reckless abandon (or throwing them haphazardly into that filing cabinet down the hall). Assess your organization’s need for records management and call in reinforcements if needed. Does your organization already have a records retention schedule? Does this schedule work for your organization or does it need tweaking? Do you know if your schedule is compliant with local laws and regulations?
It is now easier than ever to create large amounts of records and data. Electronic records have further complicated records retention and opened organizations to new kinds of risk. The move to electronic records may have also pushed your organization to move their old paper records to offsite storage, where they are out-of-sight and out-of-mind. However, offsite records are still subject to discovery should your organization find itself in the middle of a lawsuit. Make sure to include offsite records in your evaluation.
Inventory – Everything Should have its Place
You have a game plan, now what? When you begin spring cleaning your home, you don’t just move stuff around on the shelf or simply take stuff out of one closet and put it into another. Pulling things out and taking inventory of what you have makes organizing much easier. Everything should have its place. Records management is no different. It is easier to move forward with a plan when you know exactly what you have.
Do you know what records you have? More importantly, do you know where they are located? Electronic records and the ability to work from anywhere allows us to create and save records everywhere, oftentimes in multiple places. Employees may keep these records in the most convenient, but not always the best, place to store them. Records need to be accessible to others who may need them. Not knowing where your records are stored may put them at risk for incidental deletion or destruction. Start by reaching out to all departments or business units to determine what types of records they have and where they are stored. It is also good practice to figure out how long a business unit may need a particular record (just be sure these retention periods are also in compliance with local laws and regulations). This inventory will make it much easier to map out a plan for where to store records so that they are accessible. It might also help to identify potential consolidations to your retention schedule by grouping similar records with similar retention periods.
Declutter – Top to Bottom
Spring cleaning can be an arduous task. Having everyone pitch in makes the project run much smoother, quicker, and more efficiently. When it comes time to implement your records management plan, it’s important to make sure that you have everyone in the organization on board, starting from the top. Creating inventories brings all business units together by letting each unit play a role in developing the inventory and creating a roadmap for where records are stored. Direction and support from the top of the organization gives employees permission to take time out of their day and play an active role in managing their own records. Decluttering and organizing records are no easy tasks and will take, in some cases, a great deal of time. Employees who help create a records management plan that works for them will likely be enticed to maintain their records and follow the plan.
So, open your windows up and take a breath of fresh air knowing that your organization’s records and information are well on their way to being organized and compliant. When there is a plan to have “a place for everything and everything in its place”, and no “clutter,” your organization will run more efficiently. If you need additional tips or help cleaning up your records, please reach out to Zasio.
Disclaimer: The purpose of this post is to provide general education on Information Governance topics. The statements are informational only and do not constitute legal advice. If you have specific questions regarding the application of the law to your business activities, you should seek the advice of your legal counsel.