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Today most government IT departments are less in the data processing business than they are in the document- and records-management business. But while the information specialists struggle heroically to manage vast amounts of electronic records and pick up records management expertise, outside the IT shop much of management is trying to catch up with the new reality

Carrot or Stick?

In the choice between carrots and sticks, York Region goes for carrots every time. Rather than suggesting to managers their career prospects are now closely tied to their document classification efforts, the training program stresses how quick and simple the software has made it to look up classification codes and information. The trainers stress it only takes about 45 seconds to profile a document and store it in the central system, while studies suggest doing so can save a manager three to four hours every week. And they highlight the efficiency dividend that comes with version control and drag-and-drop e-mail management.

"This particular system allows you to drag-and-drop from your Outlook folder into the central system and creates a library card that takes you 45 seconds or so to complete," Kelly says.

During its efforts, York has learned that training and ease of use are important elements in helping people to overcome their reluctance to classify electronic records. With 300 classification codes, it also helps to devise a "Top 10" list of classifications for each department to help them memorize the code.

"Often I will take sample documents from a department, prepare the Top 10 classification codes for them with examples and let them go through a 15-minute exercise classifying these documents," Clayson says. "It sounds a bit like a remedial thing for a management group, but it gives them a level of comfort in profiling the electronic records and adding classification codes."

The standard presentation comprises some 50 slides, with customization for each branch achieved by adding several slides geared to that which makes it unique. Managers and staff typically attend the presentation together ("staff needs to be informed about the big picture too," Kelly says), although staff can also attend a two-day training course on RIM. He says the success of the program can be measured by the new "gung-ho" attitude displayed as people leave the presentation.

And as the team works to complete its training of all employees, it is also "spreading the word": it has been invited to give its presentation to numbers of RIM interest groups and IT groups across Canada. "I'm a little bit surprised at the interest in this; I didn't know it was meeting such a need." Kelly remarks.

The training program is a high rater: surveys and evaluations put its ratings out of a potential top score of 5.0 at 4.18, considered highly successful by training and learning industry measures.

An Ongoing Process

The number of users of the system has grown dramatically, and Kelly expects further improvements as more users complete the training program. "Right now we're actually at a key point where we're trying to be more strategic about future roll-out of the electronic records management system in terms of what branches will be next and under what criteria. We are reviewing that as we speak," Kelly says.

The system also is being discussed and recommended more frequently in departmental meetings. "We are actually hearing departments talking among themselves in meetings, saying: 'Oh, you know we have a great tool that will help you do this, if you get on to eDOCS this will let you share the information'," Clayson says.

"I have seen a lot of the departments now interested in cleaning up their old, antiquated databases and systems, so they can be prepared to start using eDOCS feeling as though they have a clean slate to move forward. That includes paper records. There has been more effort to clean up their paper records: to clean up, get them out of there, because now we no longer have to rely on that, we can really rely more heavily on electronic records. We're really building a good competence," she says.

Clayson says it is important to realize that building records and information awareness is a process, not an event, and that persistence is vital to success.

"This is really a process, a day-to-day process that people should buy in to - not just an event that takes place because you're bringing in new software," Kelly says. "And just to take it a little bit further, implementing electronic document management solutions requires businesses to know what records they have in the first place. It's important to do an analysis from a records and information management standpoint of what documents exist in the first place and look at the business processes along the way."

Kelly says they have learned that training and communication are often overlooked in RIM projects, yet are key parts of the process, and that it helps to sell the benefits of the system to the individual, rather than just to the corporation that employs them.

It also helps to demonstrate that RIM projects are about enhancing accountability by preserving a document trail of your decision-making process and a historical record of your actions.

In addition, there are real benefits in demonstrating that when it comes to the soaring problems with records and information management, your organization is far from alone. "In order to increase records and information management awareness, it's important to indicate that trends in your own organization are consistent with global trends, so that folks will not think that we are alone in this," Kelly says. "It helps them recognize the challenges are global in nature and that it's not that somebody was sort of asleep at the switch."

Selling information management to management is an important component in meeting these challenges.

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