The Psychology of Records Management: Information Governance is Free

Craig Grimestad

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Some years ago (1979), during the time when quality was not yet integral to the manufacturing process of manufacturers, Philip Crosby wrote a book entitled “Quality is Free.” At the time, the title was provocative as companies spent a lot of money on their quality programs to make sure that their customers received “quality products.” Companies regularly produced a mix of good and bad products, and spent a lot of money to separate the good from the bad and to turn the bad product into a good product. Sometimes the product was so bad that it was not possible to rework it into a good product, so it had to be thrown away or scraped. All of this inspection, rework, and scrap cost a lot of money. It was obvious that to consistently produce quality products, it costs companies a lot of money. So how could someone seriously assert that quality is free?

Well the answer of course was to make the process robust and statistically controlled, so that even with all of the manufacturing variability, all parts would still be within specification (NOTE: no part is perfect, but all are to specification). Quality was no longer inspected into the parts; it was the natural result of a statistically controlled process. Having the process statistically controlled saves inspection, rework, and scrap costs, yielding the lowest cost manufacturing solution.So yes, quality is free.- It’s built into the process.Full disclosure? Using statistical process control goes beyond being “free.” Statistically controlling processes does not add as much cost as it saves, so actually – it saves you money.

There are many parallels between quality for manufacturing and Information Governance for company records. Companies spend a lot of money on the lifecycle of records, to create, use, store and dispose of records. Almost every employee has a part in one or more stages of the records lifecycle for one or more records. The resultant variability and inconsistent practices yield a mix of good records management practices and wasteful records management practices. As Information Governance is applied, the variability and inconsistencies are reduced as the processes become defined with more effective use of resources. As Information Governance matures, the variability tends toward zero, and the efficient use of resources is maximized. For the employee tasked with a role in a mature process under Information Governance, there are no individual liberties, no place for individual expression – unless asked to be creative in a specific situation. Otherwise, the objective is clear, the task is defined, the path is established, the result is certain. No waste, no lost energy.

As you are discerning, when I say governance, I mean defining the data and information to be acquired or created, establishing a process that manipulates or processes that data and information creating records in a prescribed way that satisfies the business requirements, storing those records in a predetermined location, providing appropriate access to individuals, and then directing their disposal once the lifecycle has reached its end. All of this being done with minimum cost.

There are many examples of non-efficient practices ripe for improvement. Here are some tip of the iceberg examples:

CREATION:

When developing a report or presentation, do individuals start with a fresh canvas, or is there a template where new or updated data/information can be applied?

Are reports generated with extraneous information that has no value for its recipients?

USE:

Are there multiple individuals entering the same or similar information into different locations, such that the same data and information (or at least it should be the same) is found in multiple repositories or applications? Do individuals need to take the time to figure out which information is the most current?

STORAGE:

Is there a designated place (an Approved Records Repository) for the storage and retrieval of all data, information and records? Or does each individual have their own storehouse of data, information and records in combination with departmental and company storage locations?

Individuals commonly spend 20% or more of their time searching for records and information. Say for starters, as Information Governance is applied, that time is reduced by 5%. How much is 5% of your company’s payroll? Some will say the savings can’t be realized by freeing up a fraction of an individual’s time. Well, maybe at some point the job activities can be consolidated, but even if not – do you have some projects that you never quite have time for? Maybe you just freed up the time.

DISPOSAL:

Are all Records disposed of per the Records Retention Schedule requirements, along with all courtesy copies? If not, you are incurring extra storage and maintenance costs.

Information Governance will do for the business, what Statistical Process Control did for the factory. In truth, Information Governance also goes beyond being free – it will save you money. It is an endeavor that will improve the efficiency of your business operation and help guide the optimal use of people and resources. You want to have the lowest costs in your business sector? Information Governance is your path. Perhaps not yet, but one day Information Governance will be an imperative to successfully compete in your business sector. In the meantime, do you want to lower your costs and enjoy the benefits, or watch your competitors lower theirs and suffer the consequences?

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