Reconciliation, Part One

By Mimi Dionne posted 02-16-2011 03:57


So. Retention.

Consultants may advise you to outsource your company’s schedule to a law firm.  If you have the time to do it, don’t cheat yourself. A retention schedule is still an essential tool that helps you understand your business better. It’s a Do-It-Yourself project.

Thankfully, there’s guidance outside of Records for you.  Consider the similarities between traditional accounting documentation and retention schedules. You’re working with intangible assets, which deserve to be mathematically assembled. The trick is to develop critical thinking skills in comparative analysis and conflict resolution.  Build a workbook similar to your company’s financial statements: income statement, owner’s equity, balance sheet and statement of cash flows.  If a balance sheet is a snapshot of the company’s financial condition at a specific moment in time, a retention schedule is a snapshot of the intellectual capital.  Market the project this way.

Channel. In my last post I discussed that mythical ten year mark of Directorship.  By the time you achieve the Directorship level, you will have several RRSs under your belt (eat your heart out, Glen Campbell). Instinctually, you’ll know what works and what doesn’t, but just in case you nervously second guess yourself, meditate over our Records source material. You’ve ingested all this information for a decade or more for a reason—with the help of the giants whose shoulders you stand on, you can do this. Compartmentalize.

Think. Find the quiet space in your head to assimilate all you’ve seen (or, better yet, acknowledge what you don’t know) about your entity.  What legislation, regulations, and standards are appropriate to your industry? This is your chart of accounts, after all.  How much will they influence your public or private company? Do you have first-hand knowledge of departments’ folder structures to help keep you grounded in reality?  Will you lean more towards best practices (BP) or legal citations (LC)? Think about general versus specific regulated parties. Think about creation-driven retention periods versus fiscal year or auditing periods. Think about outlining the project workflow.

Conflict resolution.  A relevant citations list is a kind of transactional analysis where enterprise content substitutes for debits and credits.  Your initial list of citations is similar to transaction analysis in accounting: you’re gathering a shopping list in order to assemble your trial balance.  Tabular analysis determines the nature and affect of each citation. Set your legal citation value to 1. Set your best practice value to zero. Create a sliding scale in your mind.  Fair warning: when you make a change for one BP or LC, it will require changes elsewhere. It’s perfectly acceptable that your first pass is more encompassing than less (just like a trial balance, it is not proven yet that the ledger is correct) but as your work progresses you (should) experience a tremendous amount of pressure to hone the long list to a fine, razor sharp edge.  Hint: think of it like an income statement.

Match? Natch.  Reconciling the different documents to create a…balance sheet…of a schedule is the true art.  I’ll discuss “adjusting entries” in the near future.