Compliant Public Requests Start with Smart Records Retention

One message we consistently hear from government customers is how they need better solutions around records requests. With content growing at exponential rates, and huge implications around potential litigation, many organizations don’t feel that they have a good handle on it.

The ability to comply with public records request laws in any jurisdiction starts with good record-keeping, including disposition. Keeping a record past it’s retention period can be as big a problem as not keeping it long enough.

Here are some steps you can take to move toward better records practices:

  1. Understand your organization’s unique requirements for retention and disposition
    Certain records have to be kept longer than others, some records might need to be sealed, others may need redaction before they can be turned over, etc. Each organization, department, even business process may have different requirements. Determine and document what the requirements are so that when you start to do an inventory of content, you have a definitive plan regarding what needs to be kept and for how long. Click here for a link to the Washington State Records Retention Schedules.
  2. Know what content constitutes a record
    Records include more than paper and electronic documents. Email, photos, video, audio, text messages and form data that are generated or received as part of doing business can all be subject to records requests.
  3. Identify where your records reside
    They may be files on a network share or paper documents in a file cabinet. Regardless of where the documents are kept, regulations are rigid, regardless of the file format or how hard the collection process is.
  4. Perform an analysis and inventory
    A thorough inventory will help you manage duplicates and multiple versions of documents to mitigate litigation risk. This can be done internally, outsourced to a contractor, or a hybrid approach. Regardless of which path you choose, determine what content you have, what needs to be kept, and what can be disposed of before evaluating any new content management technology. Migrating content that is not retention-worthy into a new system is not time or cost effective.
  5. Choose a solution that is flexible and easy
    Two of the highest priorities of 95% of the organizations we work with are that their content management system be easy-to-use and flexible enough to adapt to changing requirements. Specifically, they want easy-to-set-up retention and disposition schedules, that can be quickly updated—without extensive IT resources—if laws or regulations change.
    Automation can also ensure disposition on schedule. For examples, software can watch and take action on documents based on date-based metadata. Finding a system that can serve your entire enterprise with flexible disposition methods, like destruction, exporting to another system or leaving just metadata in its place is also important.
  6. Find a technology partner with depth and breadth of experience
    The success of your records initiative can depend greatly on where you go for help. With an astounding 68% failure rate for IT projects, its best to find a partner with time-tested methodology, from analysis to support. Experience in the following areas can make the difference between triumph and failure:
  • Expert consulting to determine your “as is” state and develop a plan to get you to your “desired” state using industry best practices
  • Assessment of your current technology and how it can be leveraged
  • Solution evaluation to perfectly match technology with your requirements
  • Solution deployment, configuration, training and rollout
  • Document collection, conversion, scanning, taxonomy definition and automated classification and metadata extraction
  • Data Migration
  • Ongoing partnership for system/process tuning, growth and support

If you’ve done the prep work correctly—analysis, inventory and technology partner and system selection—then what you’ve put in place will help you retain records exactly as long as required. If you’d like to learn more about ImageSource, our history, retention management and public records request solutions, please contact us today.

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