Ten Steps To Electronic Data Management

Electronic records and information management are primary responsibilities in any company. And transitioning from paper to digital records is one of the more challenging projects an organization or records manager will face. It can affect everyone within the organization, alter the work processes in place, and bring together or cause chaos among different organizational units. Thankfully what was once a multi-month process can now be automated quickly and easily in a matter of days with new software technologies. And whether you’re a seasoned professional with effective project management skills and frontline experience implementing electronic data management solutions, or just a newbie just getting started we have the information and software to assist you with your goals. Below we’ve gathered a top ten list of simple steps to get you started on your electronic data management journey.

Electronic Data Records Management (EDRM) - 10 Key Steps

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1.     Develop a records policy and review the scale, importance, and challenges of the EDRM project. Step one is the development of a formal data/document records retention policy. A formally approved statement explains why a company should care about its files, both paper and digital, so the information remains authentic and accessible for as long as it’s required to be kept. And a good records policy also provides clear guidance, overall direction, explains how proper management of the data will help the company and identifies legal or statutory considerations for record keeping.

a.     Does Creating a Records Policy Take Much Time? While developing a records policy or a need assessment (scoping study) will contribute to determining the importance of the project and whether or not to proceed with your electronic data management transition, software solutions now exist to scan and identify your data to dramatically reduce your assessment time.  

b.     What If My Data Needs Change Over Time? An additional consideration is the flow of the data being migrated. Some organizations may experience a rush of data followed by slower periods of relative calm in their normal business cycle. So, as you progress with your project, you may need to scale up or scale down to keep in step with your implementation methodology. And modern software technologies exist to assist with that too.

2.     Conduct a Data/Records Survey: Identify your current and future data assets of your electronically stored information. Electronic data and information management incorporate the management of records in all formats – from creation to deletion. And a data survey provides a systematic analysis of all these records. However, a data survey needn’t be a burden. Technology is available to easily implement software solutions allowing you to quickly survey all your structured and unstructured data stored in different applications. And this information gathering at the outset is critical to the success of any electronic document records management (EDRM) project. Every record, field, data point, forms, etc., crucial to your business, needs to be identified and classified correctly in relation to how it will be presented to the end-user.

3.     Understand your forms and documentation thoroughly. The third step is to determine all your essential documents and then define your recognition rules. From there you’ll want to identify how scanner friendly forms will be designed in the future, or how an all-digital solution going forward will be developed. Addressing these issues will make retrieval and indexation of your documents much smoother as you transition your data/documents for the project and down the road.

4.     Assess your internal capabilities to establish the level of support you will need. Depending on the size and scope of the project this one could vary a bit. For small organizations, an internal team may suffice. For mid-to-large size companies temporary or contract workers may need to be employed to complete the project on time and under budget. Internal team members bring a wealth of knowledge and understanding to a project while outside resources will require a training period depending on the complexity of the tasks involved. Ultimately, the strength of the internal team will determine the speed, accuracy, and cost-effectiveness of the electronic data management project. Anyone participating in the project should have the following knowledge and skills:

a.     Experience in records management procedures and principals

b.     Strong interpersonal skills

c.      Proficiency in information technology

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5.     Enlist a strong (CIO) chief information officer. A CIO will have information on the overall IT strategy, technologies currently in place, and will provide key insights into how a change in systems may affect other technologies – both good and bad. They will also be able to ascertain whether or not the purchase of IT equipment is required for such a project or if it could be outsourced.

6.     Organize, prioritize and execute your entire electronic data management project. Now after identifying all your data assets, determining the value of the project, and gathering your resources it’s time to get started.

a.     The first item on the agenda for this step is to define the project goals and scope. Large electronic data projects can quickly become unmanageable if the scope is defined too broadly or can be ineffective if too narrow. The main key here is to ensure the project focuses on the company’s requirements and that it meets its stated goals.

b.     From here we move to the next task of selecting and implementing an electronic records management system (ERMS). The functional requirements of the system are the actions the software will perform to create the desired output. And this is one of the most important stages in the process. So many companies have different applications and silos where their data resides that most ERMS’s don’t fully cover the needs of their electronic data management projects. And that’s where DocuLynx’s software solutions offer a competitive advantage. Our software product suite offers fully customizable solutions that are easy to implement on even the most challenging projects. To learn just how DocuLynx can assist you with your next data management project, please visit our DocuSuite page for more information.

c.      Next, you will want to identify roles and responsibilities of the project team and determine the project deliverables. The main point here is to articulate clear deliverables and the planned outcome to the team members.

d.     Record Creation: Capturing the actual records and any metadata associated with them and making sure they follow a classification scheme. The biggest challenge here is to ensure that the ERMS and team members can capture all the components and elements of the data/records. For information on DocuLynx’s record capturing technologies and adaptive auto-classification, please visit our DocuClassify page.

e.     Record Maintenance: A good ERMS should provide an audit of when the record was captured, the software used to create it, the classification scheme, who has accessed the files, and if the records have been transferred.

7.     Reduce the volume of your ESI (electronically stored information) and convert it, if necessary, to easily digestible information for review and analysis. One of the biggest benefits of a file conversion project is to reduce the costs associated with redundant information that is on a file share. Identification of redundant, obsolete, and trivial (ROT) data is the core component in file reduction. The key is in identifying your mission critical data and separating it from the chaff. For detailed information on ROT data and its myths, please see AIIM’s article on “The 5 Myths about ROT – Redundant, Obsolete, and Trivial Files.” And for additional information on how DocuLynx can easily assist you with analyzing your data for optimal data management, please see our DocuAnalyze page.

8.     Preserve your electronically stored information from inappropriate alteration or destruction. Once your records transition to a digital format, you’ll want to ensure they are securely stored and provide access controls to individual end-users based upon their permission level. A good ERMS will include control access and will monitor security to make sure the data stays reliable. Another major function of the ERMS and project team is to establish the retention and disposal schedule for permanent and temporary records.

9.     Quality Assurance: Allow quick and easy access to locate information for presentation. Different data sets, fields, and different user requirements will determine how the data should be output for them. Once this is honed down, test, test, and then test the transitioned data some more. Work with the different end users to determine how quickly they can request the digital records/documents and ensure the system performs as expected.

10.     Lastly, measure the benefits of your EDRM project. What is the entire financial savings incurred by the implementation? To look at the ROI holistically we suggest to considering the following:

a.     Cost savings due to reduced storage requirements.

b.     The removal of inefficient tasks associated with outdated tracking. What are the cost savings due to the centralization of data tracking?

c.      Calculating the opportunity cost of not implementing the EDRM project. What would be the anticipated growth of the company if you do not apply the EDRM solution?

Conclusion

Migration of electronic data is a big task, but it certainly can be made much easier with the right technology and personnel in place. For further reading on planning and managing an electronic records management program for large organizations we recommend reviewing the International Records Management Trust’s document “Training in Electronic Records Management.” And for more information on how DocuLynx’s software can customize a perfect solution to assist you with your next big project, please contact us at 1-800-991-3704 at your convenience or fill out a short form to have one of our agents connect with you.