December 16, 2015

Managing Records: Where to Start?

Craig J Young, CRM, PMI-PBA

DoxTek, Inc.


Craig Young, ARMA Utah-Salt Lake Chapter Member of the year, recently gave an excellent answer to a discussion question on the AIIM (Association for Information Management) website.

The question that was proposed considered the subject of information management and where to begin with it:

Any Advice on Getting Started? My company, a government contractor in Columbia, Maryland, is 16 years old and has virtually all of the paper it has generated since Day 1. We have file cabinets on-site and in an off-site storage facility filled with bins and boxes of accounting, payroll, and proposal documents. We are starting the journey of purging and imaging our content in order to rid ourselves of the storage unit and become more efficient.  Can anyone recommend a strategy that will help get us on our way to reaching our goals?  I would be interested in hearing your experiences/successes/failures.

Do you feel like you’re in this same boat? Are you struggling to know where to begin? Have you been trying to figure out how to manage your records? If so, Craig’s response should help to shed light on the matter.

After reading of this individual’s dilemma, Craig responded, “You work for a company that has been in business for several years and you have been asked to organize the chaos of records that have been kept since day one. Where do you start?

I have lived through this scenario. I implemented an Information Governance program at an organization that had been keeping all records since 1984!

You may be tempted to jump right in scanning documents to get a start on that mountain of paper that must be organized.

A couple of observations:  while technology in the records management space has advanced tremendously and can ease much of the burden of converting paper to images, application of technology alone a solid Information Governance program does not make.  Sound policies and procedures based upon solid records management principles are at the heart of a comprehensive records management program.

I would suggest taking a step back; start an inventory of your records.  Get a handle on what you are dealing with and the size of the monster you are going to tame.  Design the inventory with the end in mind.  At some point you will have to create a Request for Proposal (RFP) or some other method of evaluation to find the correct Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solution to manage your digitized records and that fits the business needs of your organization.  This is the repository where the records you scan will be stored and managed for the remainder of their lifecycle.  What features and functions will your ECM system need?  What are the Must Haves, Should Haves, Could Haves and Won’t haves (MoSCoW)?  Design the inventory of physical and electronic records anticipating the information you will need to prepare the RFP and outline the design of the ECM system.   This requires a broader view than just the traditional data that is gathered in a records inventory (locations, size, format, etc.).  Include in the inventory information about how the information is used in the business.  Would certain collections of records benefit from full-text retrieval or is traditional keyword or index data sufficient?  What are the keywords that should be used for each collection?  Which data is related to each other and could benefit from cross-referencing in the ECM solution?  Which forms or documents originate in your organization and could be modified to include a bar code or form number in the footer of the document to assist in automated separation and classification?  Can forms be modified to assist automated extraction of keyword or index data?

As you conduct the inventory and associate with co-workers start to identify employees who are the Subject Matter Experts (SME’s) that will be most helpful when you start to evaluate business processes and design automated workflows for business process improvements.  Who would be good champions of your initiatives, who are potential distractors?  You will need to include both groups as you anticipate implementing change in your organization.

The planning stage of any project is critical to success.  The last thing you want to do is to keep going back over what has already been done to gather more information that is needed later in the process.  “There is never enough time to do it right, but there is always enough time to do it over”.

Spend some time planning each step in the process and anticipate the end result. You will save a lot of headaches and frustration.”

View the PDF Version: Managing Records – Where to Start

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