Top Information Governance Principles for your Mailroom
Do information governance principles apply to your organization’s mailroom? Mail has typically been a perfunctory function aligned with other physical office services, but for many organizations, the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted mail to a critical—and digital—operation.
Mail workflows include sensitive client information, launch new work, and therefore often billable activity. This means matter-centric record creation is starting right from mail delivery, not later from a pile on a desk—even if it is a digital pile on a virtual desk. Protection and integrity of client information have always been a top priority of information governance, and scanning to a digital format does not negate the obligation to sort this information correctly from the beginning of the process.
Because scanning and document description is involved, creating a digital mail distribution process includes several technical considerations. This includes issues of data compliance, availability, transparency, and accountability for those processes. In short, no matter who this process belongs to in the organization, it needs to be a part of a well-thought-out information governance policy, and refined on an ongoing basis, just like any other records management workflow.
Let’s simplify to just three areas of focus for your current digital or soon-to-be-digital mailroom operation and apply ARMA’s Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles® (Principles) to those areas of focus. The Principles “constitute a widely leveraged global standard that identifies the critical hallmarks and a high-level framework of good practices for records management, records and information management (RIM), and information management programs.” The following are the eight Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles:
- The Principle of Accountability
- The Principle of Transparency
- The Principle of Integrity
- The Principle of Protection
- The Principle of Compliance
- The Principle of Availability
- The Principle of Retention
- The Principle of Disposition
This all-important key sponsorship ties the digital mailroom (DMR) to the organization’s ever-growing maturity on conversion to digital files. Setting expectations of ‘maximum electronic delivery and storage’ for overall organization efficiency helps create the all-important buy-in from senior management. The greatest success of a mailroom modernization project is standardization across all locations and practice areas which cannot be achieved without strong support from senior leadership. A documented, smooth-running mailroom can only be achieved with a design driven by:
- Accountability from senior management, and
- Transparency of purpose toward overall recordkeeping goals.
Protection of Sensitive Data.
This concept is paramount in today’s environment (see the current LIFGS white paper on Client Information Governance Requests). Monitoring and auditing tools such as logs of mailroom processes must be used to trust and verify information as well as safely satisfy internal and external compliance and potential audit criteria.
Much of an organization’s mail will end up classified as a record, so every bit of accurate metadata added along the way adds integrity to these document classifications and the overall process. Adding further to the integrity, records management policy should be amended to start in the mailroom, rather than only documenting records at the time of transfer to longer term storage repositories.
Comprehensive Chain of Custody
Firms must maintain a comprehensive chain of custody—or cradle to grave—from mail receipt and opening, sorting/naming/scanning, through a short physical retention and shredding.
In cases of, admittedly, necessary secondary physical delivery, it is important to minimize and document that process. Adding documentation at this step like “We mark here in the log that we were asked to drop it off at a desk after scanning the envelope,” is crucial to maintaining the chain of custody in these situations.
Providing fast and appropriate availability of mail items along the way to careful and documented disposition, makes an organization more competitive, as well as providing a defensible protection strategy for its files.
About the Author
- Eric Lynn is DocSolid’s Consulting Director. He runs DocSolid’s consulting practice, designing, collaborating, and enabling Paper2Digital enterprise projects. Ultimately, Eric’s job is to make customers successful.