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Developing and maintaining a records management program for your office will benefit you in many ways such as:
• Improving access to information;
• Controlling the growth of materials taking up valuable office space;
• Reducing operating costs;
• Minimizing litigation risks;
• Safeguarding vital information;
• Supporting better management decision making; and,
• Preserving company/personal history.
Here is a 8-step records management plan for your office.
STEP 1. Determine Who Will Be Responsible And What Resources Will Be Needed
Establish a team or individual to oversee the project. The project person or team should:
• Set up a network of “records liaisons” with a lead person and liaisons for each office and department
• Decide if everything will be done “in house” or if outside help (e.g., contractors) will be needed.
• Select one department to be the first one to develop a management program. All other departments will then follow this template. This will insure compliance and uniformity within your organization.

STEP 2. Identify Records That Are Required To Document The Activities And Functions Of Your Office
Document an inventory where materials are located, how much there is, and the format (e.g., paper, electronic, maps, etc.).
An inventory will help you identify which materials are:
• Records, (vital and non-vital)
• Reference materials (nonrecords),
• Personal papers (nonrecords),
• Extra copies of documents, publications, and forms (nonrecords).

STEP 3. Establish Your Procedures (Recordkeeping Requirements)
Now that you know what you have in your office, the project person or team needs to determine:
• If records will be kept in a “centralized” area, or “decentralized” at individual work stations;
• The type of documents that are included in the record files;
• How draft documents, working papers, and concurrence copies will be handled.
• Who will be responsible for maintaining the record copy (records custodian).
• Do non-record materials such as convenience copies and personal papers need to be maintained separate from records.

STEP 4. Match Your Records To The Records Schedules

The next step in the project is to match the records identified in your inventory with records schedules. Records schedules provide information on how long records are to be kept in the office and what happens when they are no longer needed in the office. If there is no record retention schedule now is the time to develop one.

STEP 5. Implement The record Retention Schedule

Now that you know what records you have and what the appropriate records schedules are, you can begin to organize them into current, archival and need to be destroyed.
• Organize current documents, so they can be easily accessed, this includes electronic documents residing on individual computers or local networks
• Retire records which are no longer needed in the office to offsite storage. Knight Archives can assist in this process.
• Destroy materials which have passed their approved retention period. Remember to shred materials containing confidential or personal information. Knight Archives advises shredding all unnecessary documents.

STEP 6. Document Your Recordkeeping Requirements And Procedures
Prepare a document, a file plan, which gives details on:
• How your records are organized and maintained,
• Who is responsible for doing what,
• When it should be done (e.g., annual file retirement),
• What happens to the records when they are no longer needed in the office.

STEP 7. Maintain Your Records On An On-Going Basis
Once everything is organized, it is important to keep it current and up to date. Be sure to:
• File new materials on a regular basis (e.g., weekly).
• Protect records containing confidential information such as confidential business information (CBI) or personal information.
• Establish a check-out system (e.g., “out” cards) to track the location of your records so you always know where they are.
• Clean out inactive materials on a regular basis, usually at the end of the year (as per your written procedures).
• Retire eligible records.
• Clean out superseded or obsolete reference materials.
STEP 8. Train, Train, Train
Congratulations! Now you have a file plan. You’ve cleaned out all the unnecessary materials and organized the necessary materials. Your job isn’t over yet! You need to be sure all staff members (and contractors) know about their recordkeeping responsibilities. This also includes training staff on procedures:
• How your records are organized and maintained,
• Who is responsible for doing what,
• When it should be done (e.g., annual file retirement),
• What happens to the records when they are no longer needed in the office.