Thursday, April 22, 2010

Can offices really save money by managing their records?

In addition to being asked why records are required to be maintained by Ohio Law, our department is commonly asked how records management saves money.  Many people believe records management is cumbersome and not worth the effort.  Surprisingly, if records management is actively practiced, departments will reap the rewards.   Below are ways records management save money:

1.  Saves valuable staff time retrieving and filing records.

Last year, our department conducted a records survey and learned employees spend between 15-30 minutes to retrieve record(s) to perform a job function.  ARMA International, the world's largest records management professionals association, stated $5,521 of an employee's salary is spent each year searching for records they cannot find.  That really adds up!  Practicing records management lowers records search times allowing employees to perform their duties more effectively thus reducing overall staff costs.

2. Creates more office space by removing inactive records.

Effective records management saves space by ensuring the timely destruction of records that are no longer needed. Running out of space is one of the top problems when managing records.  When space runs out, departments will typically spend more money on storage space and  equipment instead of reviewing records for destruction that have past their retention period.  A storage cabinet alone can costs between $300 and $1,300.  Other offices will also consider records disposal to be too expensive and spend unneeded money elsewhere to alleviate their space limitations.  Proper records destruction provides reduced storage costs and faster and more accurate retrieval of information.

3. Helps properly define equipment needs.

Expensive new equipment, such as digital scanners and computers, are not purchased unless these tools will help you manage your information so much better that they repay or justify their costs.  Proper records management can help an office realize they do not need equipment or it will help them realize the equipment is crucial for their office.  Having tons of records does not solely legitimize purchasing equipment.  Other factors must be taken into consideration such as how many records are produced each year, how often are they used, how long are they required to be maintained, and how office employees and the public will benefit by viewing them in digital form.

4. Ensures compliance with the law.

In addition to following Ohio Public Records Law, good records managment allows for records to be quickly retrieved in the event of litigation and audits.  Records can be accessed for litigiation to prove the government has performed their duties correctly and save taxpayers on court and attorney fees.  Also, providing access to needed records during audits will prevent fines from the state.

How is the Records and Archives Department promoting sound records management in Licking County?

While we are a newer department, we have actively approached assisting county offices to improve their services.  Earlier this year, the department started Records Keepers' Roundtable (RKR), which comprises of county employees assigned to managing records in their offices.  The group provides records training, a forum to discuss strategies, and advocates to gain records needs to benefit offices countywide.  This summer, training will be provided to the group covering how to start an office level records management program and will learn some cost savings strategies while they build their programs. 

RKR was also instrumental in the purchase of an industrial shredder to begin a countywide shredding program.  Shredding will begin this summer, opening up valuable office space to lower operating costs.  In comparison to our backlog and  yearly records creation, the cost of an industrial shredder was more economical than using a vendor.  Also, by having the Records and Archives Department run the program, offices can be assured that records are disposed of legally and properly.

Future initiatives we are pursuing include a county-wide email policy and working with our Information Technology Department to manage electronic records.  With technology increasing at a record pace, it is our responsibility to not just manage paper records, but those in electronic format as well.