Information Governance Insights: In with the New

Robin Woolen, MBA, IGP has worked in the field of information lifecycle management since 1994 with a specialty in strategic consulting focused on enterprise-scale information management.

Happy New Year! This is the start of my fourth year writing this blog for Careers in Government and I am sure many of you that have been following it are wondering what there is left to discuss on the subject of Information Governance? The answer to this can be found in the time honored tradition of “out with the old, in with the new”! Every organization uses the new year to act on some new strategic plan and every Information Governance must be ready for it.

Out with the old for an Information Governance program means reviewing the existing files and following the Records Retention Schedule. If it is time to get rid of it, and it is not under a legal hold, get rid of it! Follow those workflows, get the approvals and dispose of those old files. This will save storage cost and minimize any risk associated with these old files. Remember that you have to follow the documented policy, and be able to prove it, or you are better off without one.

This does not mean you have to be so rigid you get rid of things that should be kept for good reason. If someone in the approval chain believes some file slated for final disposition should be retained, set it aside for review. It is entirely possible the documented retention period no longer works in today’s environment. These are factors that should be considered very carefully with the Information Governance committee to see if a change to the Retention Schedule is warranted.

Now we are getting into the “In With the New” part of the equation! Take the time to review the Record Schedule and see if it still works for your organization. There will always be changes in the market or the way you do business that mean changes to the retention schedule. An annual review by the Information Governance committee should be a priority activity in January.

If there is one constant in this world it is that information is growing exponentially.

ROBIN WOOLEN

Another factor that will impact the retention schedule is the implementation of new technology. It is very important from an Information Governance perspective that any new system be evaluated for any potential record they may create. This could mean that whatever they produce must be categorized into an existing document type, the preferred solution, or an entirely new document type must be created to accommodate the new system. As always, it is important to review all changes with the Legal department to ensure the retention schedule meets all current regulatory requirements.

Of course this means that the Information Governance department be a part of the procurement process in the first place. I cannot count the number of times I have heard “we did not even know this application was here”! I highly recommend that the Information Governance department have signify authority for any technology purchase so they have a fighting chance of becoming aware of what is coming into the organization.

Lastly, the first of the new year means mandatory annual training for many organizations and Information Governance should be a part of it. Not only is it a good refresher for every member of the staff to review the organization’s Information Governance polices and procedures, but having documented proof they completed the training is a good record to have in case of a legal matter to show staff understand how to handle the organization’s records (or to hold people responsible if necessary).

The new year is all about “out with the old, in with the new” and the job of the Information Governance department is no different from any other. Get rid of what you don’t need and start off on the right foot. If there is one constant in this world it is that information is growing exponentially.  If nothing else, following a retention schedule will make room for what is to come. Happy new year!

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