Why Records Management? Ten Business Reasons
Every business or program must address well-defined objectives which will add value, either directly to the bottom line or toward the achievement of the organization's goals and objectives. Records management (RM) objectives usually fall into one of three categories:
- Service (effective and efficient),
- Profit (or cost-avoidance), and
- Social (moral, ethical and legal) responsibility.
Records management programs must manage organizational information so that it is timely, accurate, complete, cost-effective, accessible and useable. Better information, at the right time, makes better business.
Records management programs are not generally an organization's primary business, and even though RM programs don't usually generate income, the following are the most important reasons to set up a good records management program in your office anyway. (Adapted from Ten Business Reasons for Records Management in Information and Records Management: Document-based Information Systems, Robek, Brown, Stephens, 1995.)
- To Control the Creation and Growth of Records
Despite decades of using various non-paper storage media, the amount of paper in our offices continues to escalate. An effective records management program addresses both creation control (limits the generation of records or copies not required to operate the business) and records retention (a system for destroying useless records or retiring inactive records), thus stabilizing the growth of records in all formats.
- To Reduce Operating Costs
Recordkeeping requires administrative dollars for filing equipment, space in offices, and staffing to maintain an organized filing system (or to search for lost records when there is no organized system).
It costs $22 less per linear foot of records to store inactive records in the Federal Records Center versus in the office. [Multiply that by 30% to 50% of the records in an office that doesn't have a records management program in place], and there is an opportunity to effect some cost savings in space and equipment, and an opportunity to utilize staff more productively - just by implementing a records management program.
Usually, in an office that doesn't have a records program, 30-50% of the files could be stored off-site. In EPA, we average 25 feet of paper per person. In a 30 person office that could mean a savings of $7,000 annually!
- To Improve Efficiency and Productivity
Time spent searching for missing or misfiled records is non-productive. A good records management program can help any organization upgrade its recordkeeping systems so that information retrieval is enhanced, with corresponding improvements in office efficiency and productivity. A well designed and operated filing system with an effective index can facilitate retrieval and deliver information to users as quickly as they need it.
- To Assimilate New Records Management Technologies
A good records management program provides an organization with the capability to assimilate new technologies and take advantage of their many benefits. Investments in new computer systems don't solve filing problems unless current manual recordkeeping systems are analyzed (and occasionally, overhauled) before automation is applied.
- To Ensure Regulatory Compliance
In terms of recordkeeping requirements, the United States is the most heavily regulated country in the world. These laws can create major compliance problems for businesses and government agencies since they can be difficult to locate, interpret and apply. The only way an organization can be reasonably sure that it is in full compliance with laws and regulations is by operating a good records management program which takes responsibility for regulatory compliance, while working closely with the Office of General Counsel. Failure to comply with laws and regulations could result in severe fines, penalties or other legal consequences.
- To Minimize Litigation Risks
Business organizations implement records management programs in order to reduce the risks associated with litigation and potential penalties. This can be equally true in Government agencies. A consistently applied records management program can reduce the liabilities associated with document disposal by providing for their systematic, routine disposal in the normal course of business.
- To Safeguard Vital Information
Every organization, public or private, needs a comprehensive program for protecting its vital records and information from catastrophe or disaster, because every organization is vulnerable to loss. Operated as part of the overall records management program, vital records programs preserve the integrity and confidentiality of the most important records and safeguard the vital information assets according to a "Plan" to protect the records.
- To Support Better Management Decision Making
In today's business environment, the manager that has the relevant data first often wins, either by making the decision ahead of the competition, or by making a better, more informed decision. A records management program can help ensure that managers and executives have the information they need when they need it.
By implementing an enterprise-wide file organization, including indexing and retrieval capability, managers can obtain and assemble pertinent information quickly for current decisions and future business planning purposes.
- To Preserve the Corporate Memory
An organization's files contain its institutional memory, an irreplaceable asset that is often overlooked. Every business day, you create the records which could become background data for future management decisions and planning. These records document the activities of the Agency which future scholars may use to research the workings of the Environmental Protection Agency in the 1990's.
- To Foster Professionalism in Running the Business
A business office with files askew, stacked on top of file cabinets and in boxes everywhere, creates a poor working environment. The perceptions of customers and the public, and "image" and "morale" of the staff, though hard to quantify in cost-benefit terms, may be among the best reasons to establish a good records management program.