Eight Characteristics of an Effective Records Inventory

There are many definitions floating around for the term “Records Inventory.” Here is a succinct one from businessdictionary.com: “List of all documents, files, and records created/received and maintained by an organization. It describes the title, function, purpose, content, date, format, recording media, etc., and helps in development of a record retention schedule.” ARMA, AIIM and the National Archives also have good definitions of records inventory.

But regardless of how you define it, a successful information management strategy and records inventory process contains the following characteristics:

  1. Creates a knowledgebase of the organization’s information. This knowledgebase is a foundational element of the records inventory. And if constructed and managed correctly, the knowledgebase is a tremendous organizational asset.
  2. Facilitates employee understanding of their information management and compliance responsibilities, including retention, security, protection, etc. This is an attribute that separates those companies who do a records inventory right from the rest.
  3. Engages stakeholders. When you show stakeholders (from senior level to line of business) that you are providing real value to them, everything goes more smoothly and you are able to realize the benefit of the knowledgebase. One key way to make this happen is to speak in their own lingo, which can be far different for the chief legal officer and operations person.
  4. Embed information management as a routine activity in the organization. Let’s face it – very few people go to work with the desire to improve the company knowledgebase. Everyone has one or more primary missions for their job function. The better you can seamlessly incorporate records inventory and information management into their daily workflow, the more successful you will be.
  5. Support the implementation of technology. Today, there are many technology solutions that were unavailable just a few years ago, in the areas of content/information management, email, document management, records management and social networking. SharePoint is a good example. When implemented or integrated incorrectly, these systems can prove to be a nightmare that damages the entire records inventory and information management framework.
  6. Identify risks created by poor information management practices, and support strategies to mitigate these risks. This is an area where it is best to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Significant risk areas include duplicate information, poor user participation, compliance issues and technology incompatibility.
  7. Identify opportunities for business process improvement and support these efforts. There is gold in effective information management but you can‘t reach that gold unless you get your records inventory process right.
  8. And, let’s not forget – be faster, better, and cheaper. Faster means that you can set up your records inventory in a timely manner and anyone who needs the information can get to it quickly. Better means that all relevant information is discoverable. Cheaper means that you don’t have to spend a fortune for a workable records inventory system.

Creating a credible, effective and cost-efficient records inventory is not easy. But the rewards are more than worth it. A strong records inventory will prove to be a valuable component of a first-class information management strategy.