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Records Management: A Place to Start
Posted By Tom Mighell On August 17, 2009 @ 2:19 pm In Discerning e-Discovery,Home Page Featured,Home Page Latest | No Comments
by Dennis Kiker, Director of Professional Services, Fios, Inc. I meet with companies every week to talk about e-Discovery and related issues. The one question I get asked more than any other is, “What are other companies doing?” And the number one object of that question of late is records management. Although it seems to be changing, the unfortunate answer to that question posed about that particular topic is “not enough.” There appear to be a number of reasons for that response, even excluding budgetary constraints. One is that there are typically a number of different constituencies to satisfy. The legal department wants to reduce the volume of data generally, and legacy data specifically, and favors strict controls on a user’s ability to retain lots of data (with the obvious exception of the legal department, of course). IT shares the concern about rampant data expansion, but for different reasons. Whereas the legal department worries about risk, IT worries increasingly about cost. Everyone is being squeezed, and IT departments are no different. Then there are the business users, who want to retain as much as possible. After all, who knows when you might need it, right? Compliance is another stakeholder, with justifiable concerns about data reduction efforts that do not fully contemplate the myriad data retention requirements to which most corporations are subject. All too often the result is inertia. But that needn’t be the case. After hearing about what other companies are doing (which runs the gamut from nothing to large-scale information governance initiatives), the next question posed by the typical budget-strapped company is, “What should we do?” There are a number of places to start, but I believe that the logical starting place is making sure that you know what you have. As obvious as that sounds, most companies have only a limited understanding of what information they have, who is creating it, and where it is stored. So that is where I generally suggest that companies begin – by identifying and cataloging their paper and electronically stored business records. Depending on the age of the company, some will have a records retention schedule, but, often as not, it bears little relationship to the actual data storage practices of the corporation. Nevertheless, it is a place to start. If you don’t have a records retention schedule, or you are about to create the foundation for one, there are a variety of form schedules for different industries available online. Government agencies and academic institutions particularly are great about publishing their records retention schedules on the Internet. The rest is a brute-force exercise; most people don’t think it is a whole lot of fun, but it is really the only practical way to do it. You have to talk to your business users and find out what records they are creating and maintaining. And you have begun. Where you go from there will determine whether your exercise has any value. If you are serious about managing records and information, you will need to catalog information about the applications and systems in which the records are kept, and evaluate the means available to manage them, through technology or business process. But the starting place has to be finding the records.
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