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Subject: Re: what to say to document management naysayers
From: "J. Michael Pemberton" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Records Management Program <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Thu, 7 Dec 2006 11:22:17 -0500
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Let's stop and rewind a minute: all records are 
documents, but not all documents are records 
created in the normal course of business of an 
organization. I can scan a comic book into a 
document management system. That doesn't make it 
a record.  When someone uses the term "document 
management system," I ask do you mean a records 
management system? Vendor's reply: "what's 
that?"  Would you buy a records management system 
if it were "only" a document management system?

I'm inserting here a list of 16 questions to ask 
vendors that was circulated at an ARMA conference 
some years ago. Most of them are still valid.

Automating Your Records Functions?
Sixteen Questions to Ask Vendors

1.  How does your system deal with records which 
are related to but not part of the system you 
propose (e.g., legacy records, records that feed into the records in question)?

2.  How does the system deal with, provide access 
to, older records that will not be back-file converted?

3.  How does the system write and apply 
constantly changing records management policies?

4.  How does the system select and implement changing retention periods?

5.  How will be the system accommodate a changing 
regulatory environment in which revisions of 
records retention requirements can change on a 
daily basis? For example, how will the new 
computer-based system “understand” current and 
upcoming requirements of current IRS electronic record keeping rules?

6.  How does the system search for and produce 
information which has not been properly indexed? 
(Systems “index themselves” only in unsophisticated ways.)

7.  How does the system understand the 
organization’s structure and history in order to 
identify and make available to users all relevant 
repositories of information throughout the 
organization? (This would include information of 
an archival, historical nature that documents the 
purpose and growth of the organization.)

8.  How does the system physically search a box 
of hardcopy records, filing cabinets, or employees’ desk drawers?

9.  How does the system keep up to date on 
emerging issues in information management?

10.  How does the system identify the media 
appropriate or information retention? How does 
the system convert information form one medium to 
another (e.g., paper to optical disk or 
computer-out-put microfiche or 16mm microfilm)?

11.  How does the system determine which records 
are responsive to an audit, discovery, or a subpoena?

12.  How will it flag such records and stop 
unauthorized destruction or disposition?

13.  What are the system’s capabilities in 
organizing and supporting litigation for the 
organization’s internal or external counsels and other legal staff?

14.  How does the system account for and deal 
with the many convenience copies--printed out or 
electronically duplicated--found in filing 
systems throughout the company? Copies of the 
same record to be deleted may be found in an 
employee’s drawer, in a records center, on a 
computer that is not on the LAN, etc.

15.  Will the system force all users to store all 
“records” (including those not relevant to the 
system’s original purposes and functionalities) 
in electronic form?  If not, how will the system 
analyze all user needs and then develop an 
effective active filing/retrieval system for all 
information/records needs throughout the 
organization­including those which may or may not 
belong directly in the system proposed?

16.  How does the system filter, re-organize, 
repackage, and update information needed by 
first-line supervisors, middle managers, and senior management?




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