When I started this series, I explained that the focus of an Information Governance program can be broken down into four basic components:
- What are your information assets?
- Where are they located?
- When can you dispose of them?
- Who manages them and has access to them?
I call these The Four W’s. While they are simple to explain, they can take a lot of effort to document. In this article we will discuss what your information assets are and the process of documenting them. Understanding what your information assets are and identifying them in a logical and systematic way is very long and drawn out process. This is where working for a governmental entity has its advantages because most of this work has already been done for you.
The National Archives and Records Administration, local Secretary of State’s office or State Historical Society have records schedules which list out virtually any document ever produced in the course of daily business from any department in existence. These are the definitive resources for anyone in government looking to identify their official records. These are also excellent resources for those in the Private sector to understand the records the Government finds relevant in their own business. One word of caution though: Governmental agencies tend to have separate classifications for every document. This results in thousands of record types, which can easily over complicate the records management process.
When we’re talking about information assets it is important to keep in mind that official records are only one facet of the equation. Remember that the definition of a record comes from ISO 15489 which defines a record as “information created, received and maintained as evidence and information by an organization or person, in pursuance of legal obligations or in the transaction of business.” What this means is that if you need it to do a job or defend yourself in a Court of Law, or in an audit, it’s a Record.
The next order of business is to start collecting your Records. I prefer to work by Functional area or Department to do this identification process. Remember in the previous articles we established a committee derived from each Functional area? The Departmental representative from each Functional area is where you start for this exercise. Simply go through the list and identify what Records each department creates in the course of their daily business process.
Keep in mind that a Record type can cut across many Functional areas. An easy example of this would be a memo. Every department probably creates memos at one time or another. IF your Organization is required to retain memos as Records by whatever governing authority you adhere to, that means ALL memos should be retained and managed regardless of which department created it. It is very easy to become overwhelmed with the sheer volume of Records you will identify during this process, but identify them you must.
You can begin to see why so many organizations implement an Electronic Document Management System (EDMS). There is no doubt that Records Management can quickly get out of hand and can be very much time-consuming. However, in order for such system to function, you must first identify your information assets. Unfortunately, it is one of those steps that cannot be avoided. Information Governance is a marathon, not a sprint. Take the time to do the job right the first time and things will be smoother down the line. Next month we will discuss the s