Building a Records and Information Management Program: Where to Start

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Are you are thinking about establishing a Records and Information Management (RIM) program at your credit union? Wondering where to start?

Today, almost every organization needs to implement a records and information program. Putting a program in place helps to make sure you manage your records and information to meet your business needs and comply with laws and regulation. The ultimate test of a good records management program is whether the records are available to those who need them, when and where they are needed.

Building a program

One of the most critical elements in records management is senior management buy-in. Without it, most, if not all, records management programs fail.

Trust me, I know from experience. Attempting to start from the bottom up can drag out the process considerably; things won’t get off the ground until you get executive management support. In the case of my CUSO, the internal audit team, tasked with implementing a records and information program, submitted a strategy plan to our Executive Council.

We had two goals: (1) ensure that important business records were identified, stored, and destroyed in accordance with good document life cycle practices, and (2) to use our own tools we sell to our clients for document imaging and retention in order to demonstrate the power and effectiveness of our software. We expected some additional benefits as well: that as employees would become knowledgeable in this process, and they would use physical and electronic resources storage more effectively.

To be successful, we knew we needed our Executive Council to understand and advocate for our corporate strategy. Organizations can be resistant to change, and while we firmly believed our program would have significant benefits to our cooperative, we needed the support of our management to fully bring this program to realization.

Our RIM strategy

We broke our strategy plan into two phases. In the first phase, we implemented a seven-step process to identify and locate our vital and important records. Our Record Retention Schedules (RRS) were created after conducting an inventory of our records in our various information repositories. These schedules were then presented to our board of directors for their approval.

In the second phase, our emphasis was on auditing the RRS and providing our employees with ways to purge non-records while continuing to educate them on best practices for records management.

Creating an organizational culture that considers information management a normal part of day-to-day business operations and part of every employee’s job description is the responsibility of senior management.

What might motivate executive buy-in?

Cost savings? Contrary to public opinion, storage is not cheap; especially during an e-discovery. The cost of lawyers going through thousands of emails and documents at $300+ an hour with time included for redacting sensitive information, let alone the time to find the information requested, can really add up. A RIM program can reduce redundant, obsolete, and trivial information from your systems. Purchasing new filing cabinets that take up primary office space can be eliminated—an obvious cost savings to your organization.

How about compliance? Credit unions are highly regulated with ongoing audits. Do you know if you follow all the rules and regulations of NCUA and your state authority? Do you know where your documents are and how long to keep them? A records program can help ensure that you comply.

Maybe it’s organizational efficiency? Large accumulations of recorded information are difficult for effective retrieval. If information needed to support mission-critical activities is lost or destroyed it cannot be reconstructed.

What can I do as an executive sponsor?

  • Connect with other top officials; have a conversation about records management in order to create an awareness about and advocate for records management.
  • Serve as the chair of a records management advisory committee.
  • Delegate responsibilities for the records management initiative to appropriate individuals.
  • Foster communication, promote cooperation, and resolve differences of opinion related to records management issues.

Getting that executive buy-in and participation is going to be key in creating your RIM program. Getting all employees to treat records retention as a part of their daily work is essential to maintaining it. Each credit union is unique, so consider how best to merge this program into all aspects of your credit union to create one that works most effectively for you.

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