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Business benefits of compliance process synergy for records management

Our expert explains how creating compliance process synergy across departments, especially for records management, can provide huge business benefits.

John WeathingtonJohn Weathington

It's no secret how difficult it is to obtain funding for compliance efforts. The problem is that you cannot justify compliance processes against new revenues, or even as a cost-avoidance measure. In the best-case scenario, you must hinge your case on revenue protection -- not exactly an exciting proposition for a strategic business unit leader who has to choose between bankrolling your compliance efforts and opening a new market.

Instead of funding these compliance efforts out of your own coffer, try partnering with another department. Creating synergies with other departments is not only a sound collaboration practice, but also a great way to get your compliance processes at least partially funded. You just have to play to your strengths, and records management competence is at the heart of what other organizational functions need.

To start, it helps if you're building records management or other compliance solutions internally, because doing so builds on your team's core competences. As recently as a few decades ago, it was common to find people who had built and/or repaired their own automobiles. Individuals like this would have more intimate knowledge of the way their car works than someone who decided to purchase a car and have a mechanic repair it. The same holds true with building internal records management competence.

With finance, there is built-in synergy with records management, as almost everything finance does needs to be persistent, permanent and searchable.

Housing these skills and technologies in-house also provides a valuable benefit to other organizational functions: If done correctly, records management provides persistence, permanence and searchability. A solid records management system (including all people, processes and technology involved) has these three important traits: It can store any record so it's available when you need it (persistence), you can trust that the original hasn't been tampered with (permanence), and it's very easy to retrieve (searchability). Thus, when looking for synergies in other organizational functions, the key question to start with is, "How can this function leverage our key competences of persistence, permanence and/or searchability?"

For example, the sales function has a vested interest in proper General Services Administration (GSA) contract compliance, but not because of fines and penalties. For a company to remain GSA compliant, it must conduct a thorough analysis of its discounting practices -- information the vice president of sales is usually quite interested in. This makes records management very valuable to sales: To remain compliant with GSA, you can use records management strategies to not only provide data proving discounting practices, but also to mine information that could ultimately improve sales.

The operative word here is "proving" – and this is where records management helps. If you can convince your counterparts that implementing records management processes equates to proving both compliance and business benefits, they might end up helping to fund your next technology upgrade.

The finance case for data governance

Finance is another great target for records management and compliance initiatives. With finance, there is a built-in synergy with data management, as almost everything finance does needs to be persistent, permanent and searchable.

If finance has consistently reported a 1.5% to 2% margin growth over the past 18 months, and this month it suddenly drops by 15%, the department needs to get to the bottom of the issue immediately. This is where record and data management is vital. As long as your taxonomy supports a targeted search, digging into the records management details should not be a problem.

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In addition to the confidence of knowing the data is there (persistence) and that the necessary records can be easily retrieved (searchability), the finance department will especially appreciate that the record hasn't been altered (permanence). Data snafus where electronic records are accidentally updated drive finance professionals crazy.

You can apply the same information governance synergy strategy to virtually any function in your organization. Think about the positive implications similar partnerships could have for research and development, manufacturing, and materials management. All of these functions could use solid records management strategies.

Take some time to understand your company's strategic direction and review your company's history of initiative funding. This will tell you where all the attention -- and money -- is going. By determining where your records management knowledge intersects with the needs of other departments, all sides can benefit.

John Weathington is president and CEO of Excellent Management Systems Inc., a San Francisco-based management consultancy. Write to him at

Let us know what you think about the story; email Ben Cole, Associate Editor. For IT compliance news and updates throughout the week, follow us on Twitter @ITCompliance.

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