Allen Podraza is a Certified Information Professional who believes that organizations benefit from developing a strategy for managing their information. He serves as the Director of Records Management & Archives for the American Medical Association in Chicago. He is an active member of a number of professional associations including AIIM (Association for Information and Image Management) and SAA (Society of American Archivists), and he regularly consults with companies on the development and administration of records management programs. He also provides a wealth of “How To” advice though his blog, LinkedIn posts, and tweets.

For organizations that are considering digitizing their records, what steps should they follow?

It makes good business sense to digitize an organization’s records so employees can have access to and manage some of their most vital documents.

Here are some things to consider before moving forward with any digitizing project:

  • Goals: What is to be achieved by digitizing the records—space savings, improved access, streamlined workflow, disaster recovery, competitive advantage, etc.
  • Access: Consider who will need access and when.
  • Strategy: Is the organization going to digitize all documents, or just the vital records and those that are retrieved often?
  • Budget: In my experience, the average cost to digitize and process one carton of records is $125. There are also development and maintenance costs including replacing obsolete hardware and software, and migrating records to new platforms.
  • ROI: AIIM research indicates that organizations moving to paper-free business initiatives are achieving ROI within 12-18 months.
  • Duplicates: Before starting a scanning project, duplicate records should be purged.
  • Indexing: What criteria (subject heading, keyword, numerical identifier, etc.) will be used to search records?
  • Storage of Digital Media/Backup: How will the records be secured and backed up?
  • Manage/Support: Who will manage and support the imaging program to ensure that access controls, industry standards, retention, and backup requirements are met?

Once a records management program is started, what sorts of things do you need to do to maintain it and keep it usable?

  • Someone in the organization needs to be assigned the responsibility to manage and maintain the program to ensure:
  • The records retention program and procedures are kept current.
  • That documentation for all aspects of the retention program (schedules, approvals, legal research, etc.) is maintained and current.
  • Employees are trained on and adhering to retention and destruction procedures.
  • Records destruction is suspended in the case of a foreseeable or ongoing legal proceeding, such as a lawsuit or subpoena, or government investigation.
  • Someone that is familiar with all aspects of the program and is prepared, if necessary, to testify in court about the program.

What do you see as the challenges in records management?

I see three major challenges:

  • The sheer volume and explosion of electronic information that organizations must manage and locate, especially for e-discovery.
  • Managing records generated and stored in mobile, cloud, social media, and other evolving technologies.
  • Getting busy employees to care about records retention.

But these challenges create many opportunities. Records management is a critical component in information governance and organizations need information professionals who:

  • Can incorporate records retention and management principals into all storage media architectures, automated systems, and emerging technologies.
  • Can work with Information Technology to complete a data map of electronic applications.
  • Can assist in the identification and implementation of ECM systems, e-discovery, and auto-categorization tools that meet record retention and e-discovery requirements, reducing the burden on users.

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