Factors that drive solid records management

By Johannes Scholtes posted 11-14-2011 05:54


Legal obligation

Records retention always carries with it some type of legal obligation, regardless of the type or size of an organization. The de facto standard for how records-retention requirements should fit together in a comprehensive records management environment are based upon such internationally acknowledged frameworks and guidelines such as the National Archives (UK), National Archives of Australia, US Dept of Defense (DoD) 5015.2-STD, PRO-TNA, ISO 15489, MoReq2, and so on. Even though these sorts of standards are highly detailed and most applicable to large, bureaucratic and multi-tiered organizations, they do, however, provide the necessary thematic guidelines for implementation across any size or type of organization, as well as outline the required legal framework affecting retention obligations. The above standards, as examples, provide a clear structure for organizing file plans and streamlining the records management policies that can fit the needs of most organizations.

Though high-level records management principles are going to be similar across the globe, the type of specific policies a particular organization puts in place will depend heavily on the business sector(s) and geographic regions in which they are active, as well as their own actual levels of commitment (by both management and staff), allocated resources and perceived legal risk.

Mitigating legal risk

Certainly, many instances still exist in which some organizations think about retention in terms of a very narrow “documentation management” model (i.e. storage focused rather than process focused), which falls short of meeting regulatory or performance expectations. Organizations can even be fully aware of the benefits of good records management but feel that setting up a formal and committed records management structure is a hassle and that the benefits don’t outweigh the costs or effort involved. These types of organizations are the ones that really face the most risk, as they are only motivated to move forward when prompted with a reactive stimulus such as some type of litigation.

Right mix of components

On the flip side, although regulatory guidelines exist, every organization is different, and even those organizations committed to creating and implementing a sound records management structure may not hit on the right solution if they try to exactly match or replicate a records management model used by another organization. The point is that there are basic tenants and principles to good records management—not just in terms of “managing records” but also in terms of creating a positive impact on the organization’s overriding knowledge management goals—but this construct doesn’t mean that there is a “one size fits all” solution to every situation.

A fixed, static model of “good records management” doesn’t exist. The focal point of good records management is to have the right mix of records-management components in place so that an organization has the appropriate level of reliability, consistency, and flexibility necessary to anticipate and adapt to changing regulations, business needs, technology, data formats and available resources.

Being “litigation ready” is often too vague and subjective to be meaningful. The following 8-Point Inspection add some objectivity so that you can more clearly assess how prepared your organization truly is.

If you are already in-tune with your information management practices, set aside a few minutes to complete the Self Assessment on the subsequent page. Compare your total score with the Index below and use that as a benchmark for your litigation readiness initiatives:


In a survey conducted by ZyLAB it was revealed that 88% of FTSE companies in the UK were actually at risk of litigation through not having the right RM & KM framework in place.

Recent market research assessing the FTSE 100 companies’ vulnerability to ten key risk factors indicates that 88% of the FTSE 100 is at risk of litigation. Through addressing these issues you can support you organization in measuring the individual status of the information management practices within your own organization and benchmark your level of preparedness. Take control of your information now!

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