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The project management axiom of “assume the worst-case scenario and double it” holds particularly true for records inventory projects.   Organizations are often faced with a literal mountain of boxes—in some cases dating back a hundred years or more—and are tasked with sorting and organizing them in order to determine the disposition of the contents. But every organization must strap on the hiking boots and start climbing before the mountain becomes unscalable.

Boxes that were sent to offsite storage in classic “file it and forget it” mode generally don’t have a listing of records. If one does exist, it is usually in a notebook in another box in offsite storage.  Company executives loath making decisions such as “everything older than 10 years” can be destroyed because it may increase risk of sanctions rather than decrease it.

Furthermore, original research is often recorded in spiral bound lab books and filed away.  For years, a large majority of this research fell in the category of “filed and forgotten” and usually remained stagnant at an offsite location. With advances in technology, what was traditionally not worth the expenditure, may now be profitable to bring to market.

If you look at this from a triage perspective, you can build a project plan with a defined ending. Here are four easy steps to guide your records management project:


1. Identify Non-Records

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.

If you are finding boxes with hard hats and steel toed boots, desk top accessories, journals and magazines, vendor catalogs and other non-records—it’s time to relocate them to the trash.

Western Integrated Systems’ Cheryl Young can recall projects where reams and reams of misprinted letterhead were kept in expensive office space.   While the company was waiting for replacement letterhead, the misprints were evidence of non-performance, but lost that value once the vendor made it right.  Once you’ve identified any potential records that need to be retained, dispose of the non-records.  Recycling is usually sufficient if PII is not present within non-records.


2. Calculate Timeline

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.

100 Boxes/Drawers x 3.5 = 350 hour maximum


3. Document Identifying Records

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.


4. Allocate Resources Based on Timeline

Count the boxes left at this stage and multiply by another 3.5 hours.  Add this number to the total from step three.  This is the best-case scenario for your inventory project will take in terms of hours.

Next, 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.

Or, if all of that sounds like a headache, call Western Integrated Systems and we’ll manage and staff the project for you!