Planning a Records Management Project: Offsite Records

Marketing Team - Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Planning A Records Management Project:  Offsite Records

The project management axiom of “assume the worst case scenario and double it” holds particularly true for records management.   Companies are faced with a literal mountain of boxes, in some cases dating back a hundred years or more, that have to be reviewed in order to determine the disposition of the contents.  Boxes that were sent to offsite storage in classic “file it and forget it” mode usually don’t have a listing of records, or if one exists, it is in a notebook in another box in offsite storage.  Company executives are loath to make a decision that “everything older than 10 years” can be destroyed because it may increase risk of sanctions rather than decrease it.

If you look at this from a triage perspective, you can build a project plan with a defined ending. 

First, identify which boxes and cabinets have non-records.  Good clues are boxes labeled “Desk Files”, “Copies or Duplicates”, “Samples”.  You will need to confirm that the contents are not records, or don’t have historical value.  We’ve found boxes with hard hats and steel toed boots, desk top accessories, journals and magazines, vendor catalogs and other non records which were obviously ready for the trash.  In one clean up project, reams and reams of mis-printed letterhead were kept in expensive office space.   While the company was waiting for replacement letterhead, the mis-prints were evidence of non-performance, but lost that value once the vendor made it right.  Once you’ve identified any potential records and all you have left are the non-records, dispose of the non-records.  If there is a potential for personally identifiable information, such as in copies of applications, shred the paper.  Otherwise, recycling is fine.    

Second, count the number of boxes and cabinet drawers of records remaining.  Multiply by 3.5 hours – this is your worst case timeline.  This is assuming that there is no record of what is in any of the boxes or drawers. 

Third, pull out any boxes with identifying information such as a department name or document type or project name.  Pop the top and list the first and last folder or clipped documents in the box into an excel spreadsheet.  Send the excel spreadsheet to the current department head and request any transmittals or inventories they may have for the boxes.   Multiply the number of boxes that come back with transmittals or inventories by 30 minutes.

Fourth, count the boxes left at this stage and multiply by 3.5 hours.  Add this number to the total from step 3.  This is the best case scenario for your inventory project will take in terms of hours.  Determine how many hours per week you can spend on the project and you’ll have a range of the number of weeks it will take to inventory your current hardcopy records. 

 Next month – inventorying electronic records.

Cheryl Ahrens Young, CIP, CDIA+, CTT+, APMD

HSMG / Western Integrated Systems

Southern California Office

Direct:  (714) 997-3700 ext 31

Mobile:  (626) 824-1628




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