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All roads lead to RM

The case for records management (RM) gets more compelling every day. Perhaps the most commonly mentioned driver is compliance, although that buzzword has a broad range of meanings. At one end of the spectrum, compliance refers to meeting the demands of specific legislation such as Sarbanes-Oxley, but it can also be used in a far more general context, such as following internal guidelines for project-related information. Records management is also a key enabler for responding to e-discovery and audit requests, and those requirements, too, are part of compliance.

Beyond the issue of compliance lies the more mundane yet continuous need to manage information to minimize storage requirements and make operational data readily available to users. For companies that recognize a need for formal, automated records management functionality, many points of entry are available.

Ready, or not

“The level of maturity for records management varies widely among organizations,” says Barry Murphy, analyst at Forrester. “Some have robust document management life cycle procedures and are ready to implement an RM program that touches every piece of content.” Other organizations, Murphy continues, do not even have a retention policy or framework, so they simply start archiving e-mail to take pressure off their servers.

Logical conversion

One logical entry point for deploying a more sophisticated RM system occurs when an organization adds electronic documents to a paper records management process. Such was the case nearly a decade ago when Morrison Foerster, a global law firm, explored options available for extending its records management from paper to electronic documents. At that time, MDY FileSurf was one of a relatively few applications that managed both paper and electronic records.

“Although MDY was not a big company, we felt they had the right vision,” says Charlene Wacenske, firmwide records manager at Morrison Foerster. MDY was purchased by CA last year, and MDY File Surf is now branded as CA Records Manager.

Easier e-discovery

Morrison Foerster’s goal in designing its plan for electronic records management was to emulate the processes already in place for paper records. “We worked hard to make the process match those that were familiar to our attorneys and secretaries,” Wacenske explains. Morrison’s RM solution allows all the documents related to a particular matter to be placed in an environment that is safe and unalterable, while still allowing access by people who are working on the matter.

CA Records Manager brings the ability to apply a complex retention schedule and use it as the backbone for all forms of compliance at Morrison Foerster, including regulations and client processes. The firm has found the solution to be robust and usable.

“We have 8 million e-mails in our system,” Wacenske says, “and have had no problems with scalability.” The system also has put Morrison Foerster in a position to respond easily to discovery requests. “Although the most frequent use of our RM system is for routine work,” she continues, “identifying relevant material for protective orders or e-discovery is much easier than it was in the past.”

According to Galina Datskovsky, senior VP for development at CA, retention and e-discovery should be viewed as two sides of the same coin. “They work together to ensure that you do have what you need and that you don’t have things that should not be kept,” she says, “particularly multiple copies of the same document.”

CA Records Manager uses federated RM, so that the documents do not need to be moved into a centralized repository in order to be declared as records, and can remain in place. CA MDY FileSurf has been DoD 5015.2-certified since 2000 and is now certified together with CA Message Manager. (DoD 5015.2 defines the standards for records management.)

E-mail and beyond

For many organizations, e-mail remains the most intense pain point when it comes to records management. CDW, a provider of information technology products and services for businesses, government and education, decided to make e-mail the first target for its new electronic document and records management (eDRM) solution from Meridio.

To make the RM process as transparent as possible, CDW incorporated its records retention schedule into Microsoft Outlook folders. The folders are not the same for each user, but depend on the individual’s role and projects.

“As e-mail messages are placed into designated Outlook folders,” says Rich Lauwers, senior records manager at CDW, “they are automatically saved into the RM system so that a retention schedule can be applied to the files.” Users can see the RM properties of each folder directly from their familiar Outlook application. The properties indicate what types of materials should be saved and how long they will be kept.

Change the culture

The implementation is ongoing and has progressed smoothly so far from a technical and a human perspective. The software installation was straightforward, according to Lauwers, and the company is spending the next several months training coworkers in RM procedures and policy.

“Even with a very transparent system, employees throughout the company need to understand what RM means in their job,” Lauwers adds. “We wanted them to know what to do and why it is important for the company.” That cultural change is sometimes neglected, but is as important an investment as the software.

In the next rollout phase, CDW will include documents other than e-mail messages in the RM system. Those documents will

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