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    This article appears in the Summer 2018 digital issue of DOCUMENT Strategy. Subscribe.

    The business benefits of a records and information management (RIM) program are often overshadowed by the needs of compliance and litigation within the organization. Once these obligations are met, companies often give little thought to other potential benefits that the RIM program can offer. Although not easily recognized, these benefits can actually contribute to improving the organization’s bottom line.

    What Are the Business Benefits of a RIM Program?

    Key business benefits of a well-managed records and information program are:
    • Competitive Edge: Organizations today use data and analytics to gain business intelligence about their competitors. Antiquated data systems and processes for managing records and information may slow down this ability to recognize and react in a timely manner to changing trends and customer demands.
    • Effective Decision Making: More than ever, having the right information to make sound business decisions is critical. For example, historical financial data may be necessary to make buy-sell decisions, set budgets, project sales, make changes in the work force, and other decisions that may affect the bottom line.
    • Improving Productivity and Increasing Efficiency: Too often, employees can spend hours looking for information and documents that may or may not exist. If records are properly managed, employees can find what they need without wasting valuable time that can be spent on more productive tasks.
    • Cost Savings: Likewise, if these efficiencies can help to reduce the cost of production or increase output, this could also impact the bottom line. By reducing the volume of records, other associated costs, such as paper or storage for electronic records, could be reduced as well.
    While some of the business benefits may be apparent, justifying the cost of optimizing a RIM program may be difficult.

    Why Is It Difficult to Assess the Business Benefits of a RIM Program?

    One of the main challenges in tying records management to the company’s bottom line is the inability to quantify the return on investment in hard costs and cost savings. At its core, records management is seen as an operational expense line item that can only improve the bottom line by reducing expenses.

    Additionally, any cost savings gained are generally realized through cost avoidance, which is not a tangible amount that can be applied to an existing expense line item. These savings are typically not recognized until the cost is incurred through an unfortunate event.

    How Do You Balance the Business Needs Against Compliance and Litigation Risks?

    Organizations must appreciate the need for business owners to have the necessary information for running the business and keeping certain records for compliance and litigation reasons. Too often, business owners are at odds with their legal counterparts: Business owners want to keep as much information as they can, while legal wants to get rid of as much information as they can.

    To strike a balance, records management often becomes the mediator between these two conflicting interests. A simple way to weigh the balance between them is to look at the organization’s mission statement. All activities or resources should align with it, including records and information management.

    Next, assess whether the purpose of retaining or disposing of information aligns with any of the business benefits discussed above (Does it provide a competitive edge? Is it necessary for a critical decision? Does it improve productivity and increase efficiency? Does it provide a cost savings?).

    Organizations exist to serve a purpose—its mission. Proper retention or disposition of records are not generally viewed as necessary to serving this mission. However, it makes sense that any organizational function should directly or indirectly contribute to the goals of the organization. Otherwise, it would be superfluous to the company itself. Any potential benefits of the RIM program should be justified by evaluating and meeting the four basic needs of the organization, including competition, decision making, productivity and efficiency, and cost savings.

    Cindy Zuvich, CRM, is the Principal of Unigrated Global, an information governance consultancy and records management services company based in White Plains, New York. Contact Cindy at cindy.zuvich@unigrated.com.
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