Last week, records management professionals in the Austin area gathered at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus for the ARMA Austin Spring Education Seminar. Attendees were treated to two presentations about the relationship between records management and eDiscovery. Discovery is the process through which lawyers gather evidence from the opposing party before a trial. eDiscovery stands for electronic discovery, which simply refers to the discovery of information in electronic format. In the morning, Dr. Eugenia Brumm gave a talk called “RIM’s Impact on Discovery,” and in the afternoon, Joe Venturella presented “Connecting the Dots Between Records Management and eDiscovery.” The two speakers had very different styles and even disagreed on certain points. However, the main takeaways from both presentations were things that we may have heard before but that bear repeating nonetheless:
- Foster good working relationships with your organization’s IT and legal departments. You all have a stake in your organization’s electronic records and will need to work together if you are ever subject to discovery.
- Determine your organization’s information needs BEFORE you implement any electronic information management systems. Far too often, IT implements a system, and the records management department is forced to fit their needs into the system. It should be the other way around: find a system that fits your organization’s needs. (This is why it’s important to have a working relationship with IT!)
- Make sure you have an official policy in place for the workflow and disposition of documents. Then, make sure that your policy is effective and efficient. Of course, that’s easier said than done!
- Good (meaning: official, effective, and efficient) records management makes the discovery process as painless as possible in terms of time, money, and headaches.
As records managers, we are all aware of the benefits of having RM policies in place and putting them into practice. Unfortunately, it can sometimes be difficult to articulate those benefits to others in your organization. Brumm and Venturella helped show exactly how good RM practices can help an organization if it is ever the subject of discovery. In a way, a good records management program is like an insurance policy. You will have to spend a lot of time and maybe even some money establishing records management policies, but the time and money spent now will help keep costs from skyrocketing out of control later on.
Stay tuned to learn more about each talk – we will be sharing more detailed summaries in coming posts!