Digitally Transform Your Processes and Information Governance Policies

[Originally published on the TeraThink blog]

Looking at these boxes of records in the window you have to wonder if the retention is driven by how much space they have or actual business need.One of the great things about using content services in your digital transformation efforts is the automation a lot of information governance processes. You can link business entities, automate the application of policies, and reduce duplicate content. All of which increases reliability of information and reduces redundancy. The newly digitized processes streamline the work that you do daily, increasing your ability to innovate across your business.

Sounds great, right?

But what about those policies you are applying? Have you thought about what they are doing? Do they reflect the realities of your day-to-day? Now that you are no longer dealing with paper and information silos, you can revisit your records policies that were written years ago.

Paper Has Dictated Records Policies

Governments run on forms. Citizens, immigrants, and visitors submit them for things such as visas, tax payments, and labor grievances. Every form, and the case around it, has a retention period. In the paper world, all the processed cases are regularly boxed-up and sent to offsite storage. After their retention period expires, the whole box of cases is destroyed. Finished on the same day; destroyed on the same day. Simple and efficient.

There are flaws to this approach. Every box is marked to be retained for the same amount of time, regardless of the decision recorded in the case. Even if a case could have varying durations, e.g. the duration of a visa, every approved case is retained for the same amount of time. In the paper world, variable retention takes extra effort to manage.

The policy creators may have decided upon three years because that would cover the desired retention for a majority of records. If some records were kept longer than necessary, or less than the business may desire, that was a willing price to pay for the ease of managing record destruction at the box level.

Going Digital Opens Things Up

Now let’s digitize the process. You capture all information online. Applicants upload documents to support the form’s submission but the form data is now simply that, data. Once completed, you still package up the case, this time as a digital record. Instead of putting it in a box, you apply your electronic records policy of three years to the case.

But why three years?

With digital records you no longer need to worry about the inconvenience of managing records individually. Your staff does not have to pull individual records from a box. Automated business rules can apply your governance policies. That means you can set it for three years after the visa expires. Or you can even get fancy and use the longer of either four years or three years after the expiration date.

Additionally, you can revisit the duration of the retention period. Why was it three years in the first place? It may have been because the storage location could only hold three years’ worth of records. Ask yourself, how long is that information useful? If 60% of visitors who don’t come back within five years, maybe five years is a better retention period.

And now warehouse space is no longer driving your information governance decisions.

Leverage Existing Information

The value of information when properly governed as records is often undervalued. Let’s stay with the visa example above. Let’s say that during their stay, they fell in love with the Shenandoah Mountains and they wish to emigrate to the U.S. In the paper world, they need to resubmit everything. The reviewer looking at the case might see that they had previously held a visa and request the record. They would then have to wait, compare documents, and keep track of the documents in two files.

In the digital world, the applicant could see what they had submitted previously and use that as a basis for their immigrant application. This would ease their application process. For the reviewer, they would have instant access to the entire visa application and would not have to start from scratch on their review.

This is a win from all angles.

  • Prospective immigrants have a drastically better user experience.
  • The reviewer can readily consider a person’s entire history and trust existing information.
  • You won’t lose information in the paper shuffle.

From an information governance perspective, a single piece of information (e.g. a birth certificate) could be referenced in multiple cases. It could have multiple retention periods, one for each case. You may even decide that all content referenced in multiple cases becomes part of a permanent record.

And all of this is automated behind the scenes.

Time to Reevaluate

Transforming your organization by going digital is a great way to better serve your customers and free your people up to innovate in other areas of your business. You should take the opportunity to better serve your organization. Review your policies to make sure that you aren’t following rules dictated for analog reasons such as paper.

Just as we learned to transform our processes to fully take advantage of technology, we need to adjust our policies so they best serve our needs.

Have a story of an old process that was clearly a result of the analog universe? Share it below. We’d love to hear how others are adjusting to the digital world.