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Implementing Document and Record Management Systems into Your Business Continuity Plan

13 April 2009 3,005 views One Comment

–By Nick Vasilyev–

Introduction
Effective business continuity planning requires the timely restoration of critical functions after a disruption to normal business operations. This would include developing plans for the recovery of essential IT infrastructure, critical applications, and time sensitive business processes. In the aftermath of emergency situations, however, it is all too common to find that organizations fail to plan adequately to protect and replicate paper records, as necessary to mitigate risk and continue operations.

Not only is paper easily lost, but it is also very fragile and easily destroyed. In case of a flood or a fire in your office, many vital records could be lost. On average, it costs approximately $200 to recreate a lost record. However, some records cannot be recreated and by law they have to be retained for a certain period of time. If records are lost, an organization may not be able to present evidence in court or pass its next Sarbanes Oxley (SOX) audit. For example, after the Oklahoma City bombing, about 40,000 records were destroyed, causing the settlement of about 100 cases due to lack of evidence.

Implementation
Implementation of any record management and/or paper digitization solution is a significant undertaking and must be approached with a detailed plan of action and significant support from upper management. Implementation breaks down into 4 distinct phases:

1)Identifying objectives
2)Identifying products that meet those objectives
3)Implementing a system
4)Digitization of records

Identifying Objectives
Identification of mission critical objectives is the most important part of the implementation process, the Business Impact Analysis (BIA) provides the framework for such decision making by identifying all records that support operations and by linking those records to processes. As we examine the time sensitivity of processes and the records that support them, one key decision that must be considered is what records need to be digitized and why. Organizations also must decide what approach they will use to digitize their records. Currently, there are two possible approaches:

1)Backlog conversion
2)Day forward

If an organization chooses to digitize the backlog of paper records, a decision will need to be made as to which records have priority. Most likely, records that have the longest retention schedules and are required to be maintained for audits and to be compliant with laws will be the first priority.

In a day forward approach, the backlog is not digitized and instead all new records are digitized from a certain time period forward.

It is very common for organizations to pick a slight mix of both processes. An organization might designate certain backlog records that are vital to business operation and digitize those records, while ignoring other backlog records. All new records will be digitized, as well.

Identifying products that meet those objectives
Once key objectives have been set, a line of products will be evaluated to see what Electronic Document Management System (EDMS) solutions meet the needs of an organization. Common factors are batch digitization, OCR (Optical Character Recognition) capability, search and retrieval of records and, most importantly, the redundancy of the system.

One of the biggest deciding factors is the type of records that will need to be digitized. For example, some EDMS solutions are better than others at automatically batch processing large collections of forms with very little user intervention. This greatly speeds up the digitization process of certain forms.

Integration is also a key part of the solution. The product should offer open standards in the database and image format. The full scope analysis of different vendors is out of the scope of this article; however, there are many resources online.

Implementing a System
Once vital records have been designated for scanning and an EDMS solution has been identified, the next step is to deploy the system. EDMS systems can greatly enhance the recovery speed of an organization from a disaster. It is very common for an EDMS system to be placed into a secured facility at least 50 miles away from a major city. There would also be an exact duplicate of the system at another hot site for live fail over.

For end-user access, a Citrix like environment can be set up to allow users access to their records from anywhere. Most EDMS solutions also provide web portals which allow users to retrieve and work on records from their web browsers.

Digitization of records
An organization has a number of choices when digitizing records. A company may choose to set up an in-house process to scan records or to outsource scanning to another company. There are hefty costs associated with initiating a scanning project in house; however, if a large amount of documents needs to be digitized, it is the most cost-effective way.

A common solution for alleviating the cost of scanning is to slightly modify the business process to include the EDMS solution into daily operations of users. For example, if a claim processing service receives typed forms in the mail, a solution where customers can fill out and submit forms online would be implemented. Forms would be directly imported into an EDMS system which in turn would route them to the correct individual and notify responsible parties. Once this system is implemented, forms would no longer need to be scanned.

Case Example
Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) has recently undertaken a significant initiative to digitize all paper records in all of its regional offices. LIUNA is also implementing a mail and fax routing system in the upcoming year which will allow for all mail to be digitized at a central facility, then delivered electronically to individuals throughout the country, regardless of physical location. A fax digitization initiative is also in the works. With this solution, all faxes will be digitally captured at a central location, and then routed to the correct individuals.

Records for all departments are being digitized not only in case of a disaster, but there are other perks. Users will be working with these records on daily basis, a benefit that gives legal department ability to search for any word on any page within seconds.

LIUNA is a prime example of a proactive approach to BCP. Not only will they be ready in case of a disaster, but implementing this automated solution will save them millions of dollars over the upcoming years – savings that they will be able to pass down to their members.

Conclusion

In this era of diverse threats to organizational resilience, documents often hold the key to an organization’s future or lack thereof. The most common natural and manmade disruptive events can yield disastrous results to a company’s unprotected records, and hence to its public image, legal protections, customer satisfaction, and employee retention. Fortunately, today there are tools and techniques that, if deployed properly, can mitigate those risks.

An organization that is serious about planning for contingencies must include strategies for recovering paper records asan integral part of its business continuity program. In addition to the benefits of compliance, organizations with robust document management plans typically enjoy significant cost savings and increased productivity. After deploying a digital work environment we often find that cost savings are immediate. Increased productivity results from easier access to operational data.

Many organizations throughout the country are implementing digital document and record management systems to ensure business continuity and legal compliance, and to take advantage of the additional benefits associated with a digital work environment. For more information about digital record solutions, representatives can visit http://www.aiim.org or contact the author with specific questions.

Nick Vasilyev
Nikita.vasilyev@gdit.com

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