Start 2023 with a fresh RIM strategy
Are you ready for 2023? The world is changing, and it is time and past time for you to bring your business into the modern age by taking control of your physical and digital records. In order to quickly adapt to changes, protect your business assets, guard your reputation, and shield your company from liability it is critical for your business to modernize your management of both physical and digital records. Here is everything you need to know to start your journey toward a new records information management (RIM) strategy for 2023.
First, what is RIM?
Records information management (RIM) can go be other names such as Information Life-Cycle Management (ILM) or even just Records Management (RM). At the core all of these titles simply refer to a system of requirements and guidelines to guarantee the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of records whether physical or digital. In other words, we want to set in place systems to keep documents secure, make sure they remain safe from damage, and make them easy to locate.
The final piece of any RIM strategy is secure destruction when records reach their end of life. Many files must be kept for a minimum amount of time due to legal or business needs. This time frame is referred to as a retention period. An effective RIM system will make it easy for you to review which files have reached their end of life and are ready for secure destruction.
Why do you need an RIM strategy?
Don’t be fooled into thinking this is just something for large multinational corporations. Every business creates and processes records in one form or another. Storing all documents improperly or even just indefinitely leads to unnecessary risk and liability. Here are just a few of the ways creating a new RIM strategy in 2023 can benefit your business:
- Increase compliance with laws and regulations
- Mitigate the risk of security and privacy breaches as well as any legal damages
- Improve accessibility to information for those who need it
- Increase efficiency of space by organizing records and destroying old records
- Increase staff efficiency
- Decrease costs for storage and management
How to get started?
Developing your RIM strategy will be an ongoing process for you and your team. However, below we out line 9 steps you can start working on today.
Step 1 – Take stock
Start your RIM journey by first evaluating your current situation. Consider how your business creates, uses, stores, and disposes of information. This assessment should include both physical and digital records. Evaluate what can be destroyed and what must be kept. Also consider the needs of other departments and individuals who will require access to certain records and how that access can be improved, simplified, and secured. This analysis should cover both incidental records such as memos, drafts, and copies which can be disposed of when they no longer have an immediate use, and “controlled records” which must be kept for a retention period.
Step 2 – Make a plan
Next, plan how you can organize your current files and what systems you need to put in place to correctly index future records. Think about the different types of records your business handles. Which can be securely disposed of immediately? Which need to be stored for a limited time? Which must be stored permanently? For the records that need to be stored for limited time, begin develop categories based on their required retention period. For instance, your business may choose to store all tax related documents for 9 years.
Step 3 – Get equipped
In order to implement an effective RIM strategy you are going to need the right tools. These tools may be as simple as labels and a spreadsheet, or may be as complex as information management software and regularly scheduled destruction services. Carefully consider and vet the tools and services you will need to manage both physical and digital records and to guarantee they are securely and responsibly handled at every stage of their life cycle.
Step 4 – Index your records
In order to make files available and track their retention schedule it is essential that they are easy to locate. This requires indexing. Indexing is the process of organizing, labeling, and tagging records in a database which lists their location. Begin the indexing process by developing appropriate categories for all of your records. If you are indexing in-house, you can use a spreadsheet as your database. Every box will need a box number, a description of the contents and a location. For example, Box 150A may have the 2017 tax records and by stored in file room 1.
Step 5 – Get serious about security
In order to keep records confidential, security is essential to any RIM program. Restricting access to only those who need it, limits the risk of security and privacy breaches. Physical records should be stored in an area that is not accessible to everyone. For digital assets you will need to use security measures such as passwords, two-factor authentication and encryption.
Step 6 – Digitize files
Scanning your document into a digital format can save space and simplify your file management. This is often an intensive and costly process, but combined with the right ECM (Enterprise Content Management) software it can revolutionize your RIM strategy.
Step 7 – Create you retention schedules
Once records are indexed and properly stored, you can begin building a regular retention schedule by assigning the amount of time each category of records must be kept. You may need to consult a legal professional to develop the retention periods that are appropriate for your business. Once the periods have been set by category, expire dates (destroy dates) can be added to the individual records. For instance, your business may keep sales records for seven years, so all sales records will have an expire date that is seven years after their creation. In other words a sales record from June of 2015 can be destroyed after June of 2022.
Step 8 – Create a backup system
While digital records are easier to store and share, they are at risk of being lost if a computer or a drive fails. To avoid this risk, develop a system to regularly backup all digital data. Keep in mind that all back ups and duplicates need to be secured and indexed. They also need to be destroyed when the original reaches its expiration date.
Step 9 – Securely dispose of records
When records reach their end of life they must be disposed of in a way that renders all information unreadable. Physical records can be easily destroyed by burning and shredding. Digital records are more complicated. Devices and computers (anything with a hard drive or memory chip) should be securely destroyed. The same goes for external drives, disks, and LTO tapes. Keep in mind that deleting and factory resets do NOT destroy data. Even wiping programs can leave information behind. We recommend the physical destruction of IT assets by crushing and shredding. The recycling of the raw materials will also guarantee that the information can never be recovered.