ECM: Lack of Records Management Policies can cost a lot of money. Part 3. HOW and WHEN to implement Records Management Policies

Related articles:

PART 1. Records Management Policies – a vital part of ECM – benefits of having them and risks of ignoring them.
PART 2. What can go wrong if you don’t have Records Management Policies in place?

Records Management Policies – rules of moving content through all stages of its life cycle until it is discarded (or kept forever).
It usually includes:
– What content you are moving
– When you are moving it
– How you are moving it
Synonyms:
Records Management Policies, Document Retention Policies, Records Retention Policies, Archiving solutions, Archiving strategies, Content Management Policies

The article is for: IT professionals and corporate leaders, companies of all sizes who have a substantial amount different data coming into ECM platform

This article is mostly for cases where you have an ECM platform on-premises or going with the hybrid solution, but some of the statements and ideas can be applicable for a cloud as well

To continue:  if you are buying an Enterprise Content Management Software or activating this component – you need to make sure the Records Management Policies (proper archiving processes) are in place before you go life with the app. Some ECM software come with records management policy feature, but you need to tell the program what to do with documents/records when this content is old, OR you can create your own workflow for moving the content OR there is Records Management software that you can integrate with your ECM software. Even before buying ECM software consult about this topic – this will give you an idea of how to plan the budget and where you can save your company’s precious dollars by moving the data to lower tiers storage.

Here how to make sure you don’t have to deal with the problems outlined in the previous articles in the future:

Before your software goes life besides all other governance steps for content management consider answering the following questions:
1. How are you going to structure the whole environment?

   a. What sites are you going to create?
By project? By department? Somehow else?
b. How are you going to structure the libraries?
By project? By year? By topic? By Content Type? (CT is sort of a container of documents with the same content management policy) Somehow else?
Reason: this might give you an idea if you want to mirror Tier 2 storage with the same structure

2. How are you going to discard abandoned sites, after what time period?
       Reason: forgotten sites can be confusing, possible duplicates, etc. Get rid of them

3. Analyze all records that will go into the app (keep in mind the growth of your company):

   a. What types of documents will go into this app?
1, many?
b. Are there any regulations that you have to comply to?
HIPAA, SOX any other?
Reason: Depending on this factor you’ll have to know the storage process, the time limits for storing them and if you CAN delete the docs/records or NOT
c. Are there any documents that can not be deleted? Ever?
Reason: Sometimes regulations will specify that for you. If yes – make sure they are stored in a special place or you have copies somewhere in a safe place

4. How long will you store each type of document in each stage of life cycle (see the explanations below) until it’s deleted
5. Are you going to deal with content management policies by yourself (within the company) or ask another resource for help?

Reason:  a. If you are most of your documents can be OK with several simple policies – you can probably create a policy for the documents/libraries by yourself (using your local resources), making sure the content is archived properly.
b. If you have thousands of records that will be created and documents will be uploaded every year and you have to have many content types and each will have its own archiving policy, or regardless of the volume and types you feel it is better to be done by somebody else – then ask for professional help. That would be the company who installs and configures this software for you, or any resource with experience with this particular ECM component/software.

6. There might be more topics to consider, depending on the nature of the business of your company.
There is much more to record management and enterprise content management than what’s spelled out above, but here is some additional KB for you:

The process can be manual or automatic:

Automatic: Record Management Policy feature that comes with the software OR you can write your own Workflow OR buy additional RM software
Manual: when a human does it by hand. Cons are human error and lack of time and then you slip into “no policy” hole. 🙂

Some additional thoughts:
When working with the content management specialist to create policy remember the following:

– Consider DB and application components (site / library / list / view) capacity. Make sure the policy is logically aligned with the capacity. For example: if a number of records in the library will be bigger than the list or view can hold – then you have to structure the library accordingly

– Set up limits and alerts when the capacity near the limit for sites, lists and library, but please DON’T use it as THE ONLY record management policy. That’s not a policy – you’ll end up with migration project described above.

– Have your own judgment and input. Try to opt out for a creation of something simpler if it is possible, so down the road, you can modify the policies by yourself if you need to. Keep in mind that all documents that share the same faith can be classified equally and put under the same policy – the process will be simpler. Don’t go too granular unless there is a need to.

– Make sure you account for addressing discovery-related orders through “legal holds” That means try to create policies that can be easily modified by you if needed

– Make sure the process is documented with the detailed explanations and easily understandable: flowcharts and other images. If you outsource the project make sure the documentation is reviewed by the company’s responsible employee who will understand every little bit of this process before he/she signs off on it.

– If you are an executive of any level – make sure you are familiar with the designed process. – wouldn’t hurt… 🙂

Depending on a number of different types of documents and compliance processes you can create a content management cycle that works for your company.

In many cases, Enterprise Content Management Policies can be quite complex. Regardless of complexity, it needs to be in place.
Even simple properly set content management policy implemented will help you avoid major problems and money drains in the future – just make sure that a document or a record is recoverable and you don’t delete what needs to be kept forever.

Have fun! 🙂

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