We sometimes get questions from local governments and state agencies who are looking for vendors to provide records management services like destruction or electronic systems. While TSLAC generally cannot make any recommendations for specific vendors, we can help connect you with further resources which will hopefully help you make better informed decisions when it comes to outsourcing.
Whether you have already secured vendors, or deciding whether or not to do so, it’s important for your organization to determine if it’s really going to be beneficial to improving workflow and cost savings. To get you started, here are a few questions to ponder with your colleagues:
Can it be done without hiring a vendor?
This question comes first because you won’t even have to bother with the other questions if it’s feasible for a project to be done in-house. Example: recently, the state records center needed help with some very big projects that had accumulated due to our increase in business coinciding with the state hiring freeze. Our division director pitched the idea of having us analysts (who are used to sitting in cubicles) get our hands dirty and help out with some of these tasks. You can read about the results in our blog article We Don’t Retreat, We Attack!, but the short version is that our teamwork helped accomplish even more than originally projected. There was no need to hire temporary contractors when we had plenty of extra hands to pitch in. Think about the resources you have that are already available.
How much money will it save?
We have yet to meet a local government or state agency that isn’t under the constraint of a limited budget, so we’re assuming you will need to make a cost-benefit analysis to decide if hiring a vendor is a wise choice. Don’t just think about the upfront costs either, because there will be ongoing costs to maintain whatever services the vendor is providing, as well as costs to replace the vendor with a new solution in a worst-case scenario. We wrote up a brief article in 2011 acknowledging the savings realized by one state agency due to their hiring of the only vendor that we can specifically recommend (TSLAC!) to do disposition of inactive and expired records.
Will it promote the goals, objectives, and mission of our organization?
If you cannot provide concrete reasons why outsourcing will be beneficial to the overall mission, then perhaps it’s something that isn’t actually beneficial. Outsourcing isn’t necessarily something that every organization needs. A similar line of thinking is applied when we give advice on getting rid of paper after scanning. The trend of ‘going paperless’ is increasingly popular, but for some offices it’s not automatically a good idea to get rid of paper. You might hear about another office having all of their needs met by paying XYZ Vendor to take care of their records services. But what if it was actually a waste of money for that office (like it could’ve been done in-house) or what if the service was regrettably poor years down the line?
Is senior management on board with improving records management processes?
If they are, then throw them a small party to show your appreciation! But if records management is low priority for directors, executives, or elected officials within your organization, then check out our recent article: Selling Records Management to Your Supervisor. In short, you’ve got to get in front of them and demonstrate how outsourcing will improve workflows, meet agency goals, and save money. Not an easy task, but having top management on board will make a lot of other things easier.
We will follow up this article with more about outsourcing – such as discussing what to include in a contract – in a future post, but in the meantime, think of more questions to pose to your organization so that you all can be confident about the decision to outsource. Let us know in the comments what you think!