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Our Records Management Journey

A Quest for Excellence:

In Avondale, we are proud of the strides we have made in our records management program. The collaboration with our Information Technology Professionals as well as the individual departments who play key roles in maintaining city records and ultimately assist us in achieving our records management goals is unparalleled. The City Clerk has a statutory responsibility for maintaining records, paper and digital. For our digital records we must have a strategic partnership with our IT Department and a positive relationship with internal staff.

The City Clerk’s Department’s staff is considered the subject matter expert on records retention, development of classification and taxonomy schemes, access and preservation of records. Whereas, the IT Department is highly skilled at monitoring and acquiring new technology and deploying various solutions to capture and process the data and other objects in system applications. By understanding and respecting each areas’ responsibilities and expertise you are better able to work cooperatively and ultimately achieve the desired goal.

In Avondale, the IT department is receptive to the Clerk’s Department’s need to preserve and provide access to information, and work diligently to provide a work product that will meet that need. City Clerk’s Department is also receptive to their IT professional’s recommendations/ suggestions for programs and etc. that will work within the framework established, as well as giving IT the time they need to complete the task.

Records are a valuable asset and the City of Avondale understands the importance of the information entrusted to them and is taking the necessary steps to protect and preserve this information from creation to final disposition, regardless of media. Here are some highlights of the projects we have completed so far in this quest for excellence.

Creation of the Records and Information Management (RIM) Program Manual
The RIM manual was created by the City Clerk’s Department staff as a comprehensive “How-to-Guide” for employees and was designed to support the Records and Information Management Policy (also highlighted below). The manual goes into more detail about the records management program, the legal requirements and our authority. The manual goes through the procedures for records destruction, sending boxes to storage, gives definitions for records management terms, the lifecycle of a record and so much more. (Creation timeline: December 10, 2012 through publishing October 31, 2013)

Results of the RIM Program Manual – City Clerk’s Department has received positive responses from employees about the manual and how they have used it as a resource when working with their records.

Creation of Records Management Page on City Intranet (ACES)
As a resource of city employees a records management page was added to the City Clerk’s ACES site to house all items associated with Records Management. Items housed on this site are forms; searchable retention schedules, the RIM Manual, Records and Information Policy, and training materials. (Page established: December 2012 – documents added as they were created)

Results of ACES site: employees have responded positively to having this information at their fingertips. They especially like the searchable retention schedules because in some cases you don’t really know in what schedule a records series can be found.

Public Records Requests Process
The City Clerk’s Department is responsible for providing access to the public records for the city. In an effort to provide timely and efficient service to the public, they met with IT to discuss a technology solution to the public records request process. Clerk’s Department staff explained the current process and the need to preserve this information while also allowing access to various departments. In some cases, the requests will require the information be placed on a legal hold. In explaining this process, the IT staff developed two flow charts, one for the standard records request process and the other for the legal hold process. Both flowcharts were provided to the Clerk’s Department for input before they were finalized.

IT also designed the records request site on SharePoint allowing City Clerk staff a method to gather and retain all of the information for that request. To begin the records request process the City Clerk staff fills out a request form (IT designed) to establish the folder on the SharePoint site, giving access to all the areas that would need to provide information. The folder and security permissions are set up by IT. (Creation timeline: December 26, 2012 through implementation May 7, 2013)

Results of the automation of the Records Request Process: Internal staff has a central place to put all of their documents when responding to the request for information; they find it very convenient and efficient. 
Records Management Policy
In order to have a successful Records Management Program the City Clerk’s Department needed to establish a Records Management Policy that covered all records regardless of their media. The policy provides employees with a framework, explaining what records are and how we are to manage them to ensure that we are all handling them the same way. It provides our legal authority as well shows our legal responsibility and outlines the roles and responsibilities. The policy was designed to be a mechanism to assist us in meeting our statutory requirements as well as document how we conduct our records program.

One of the critical areas that needed to be addressed through the policy was Outlook, specifically email. The City had several records requests for email; the process was extremely labor intensive, mainly because the City did not have an email policy or an email management system in place. Therefore, it was extremely critical to address this issue immediately. Clerk’s staff and IT discussed the issue and determined that one year was an adequate amount of time for items to remain in the active In/Sent box, as many employees use their inbox for flagging projects. A phased approach was necessary, in order to achieve the goal of one year due to the volume of emails needing review. The emails required a review period, as some of them met the definition of a “record” as described in ARS §41.151.18 and we did not want to prematurely destroy any records. (See below for “Email Project” schedule).

Email Review – Years Destruction Date
7 Years and Older January 31, 2014
5 Years and Older April 30, 2014
3 Years and Older August 31, 2014
1 Year and Older January 31, 2015 ***Goal Achieved***

The next portion of the discussion centered on where the emails that met the definition of a “record” should reside. The use of .pst files was not a suitable option; therefore, it was decided to keep emails in the Outlook system so they remain searchable. IT created a “retain” folder in each employee’s Outlook account to place the emails that were records, as well as disabled the auto-archive feature. Once the one year goal is achieved, the retain folder and retention rules will be addressed.

In order to communicate the policy and email cleanup project to the employees, City Clerk’s staff developed a training program that reviewed the major points of the policy, educated employees in basic records management practices and principles, and the schedule for the email project. (Creation timeline: June 26, 2013, approval October 31, 2013, published October 31, 2013)

Results of the Records Management Policy implementation: City Clerk’s staff met with individual department and provided training on the policy and basic records management practices and principles. In addition, the training was then tailored to each department based on their particular records series types to allow staff to fully comprehend the requirements for records within their care. The tailored training made staff more receptive, responsive and engaged. For example the actual training portion was 30 minutes however, most training sessions lasted 45 minutes to one hour as employees were so engaged in the training program. Feedback was extremely positive and employees truly appreciated the delivery of the training program being crafted towards their needs. As a result of this project and the creation of the RIM manual employees understand the retention requirements and are conducting regular destructions.

During the email portion of this project, it was evident that employees were actively participating in the records purge days. Employees were asking questions and discussing the project in meetings, hallways and etc. Even though in the beginning it seemed like a monumental task, staff has been positive about the change and believes it is a step in the right direction.

Creation of Mascot for Records Management Program
In most circles the topic of records management is fairly dry/dull and in order to promote this important aspect of our responsibility in a fun and inviting way, a mascot was created to help spread the word. Emily keeper is the records management mascot and although she is a box she represents all media as records managers are now basically information stewards and they are responsible for all types of records regardless of characteristic or media. The current records management site will become Emily’s site and she will have a blog giving out records management information, tips and tricks and etc. (Creation timeline for Emily as the Mascot: August 2013 to introduction at City Managers Quarterly meeting on October 23, 2013) (Creation timeline for Emily Keeper’s site – in progress)

Results of Emily Keeper: Emily has made a positive impact on the employees of Avondale. Her email messages during the email project served as important reminders to staff. We have received many positive comments regarding Emily Keeper.

Records for records public records policy
The purpose of the request for public records policy is to provide guidelines and establish procedures for responding to requests for public records. As well as inform Avondale citizens of our process. (Creation timeline: February 12, 2014, through approval March 19, 2014)

Results of records policy information: it was helpful for employees by clarifying this process, responsibility and what their role is in the process.

Current Projects
The world of records management has been evolving from the paper based solutions of the past to the purely digital age for the future. In this transitory time where both medias are still present the city needs to be able to maintain and retrieve both. The digital age is far more complex than its paper based partner. Ensuring that documents can be found over various drives and etc. can be challenging and critical when responding to request for public records. Therefore the need for a search mechanism is essential. To meet the demand for retrieving digital information for a public records request or etc., the city is implementing an e-Discovery search tool solution. This eDiscovery tool will allow Clerk’s Department and City Attorney staff the ability to reach across email, document management, and file shares for a comprehensive capability very few organizations can claim.

Social Media
The city has selected a social media archiving solution and is currently in the process of implementation.  This solution will help us maintain records created or received on each social media outlet.   (Implementation timeline - started June 30, 2016 and is currently in progress)  

Records Compliance Audits
To ensure continued compliance and success of your records management program it is imperative to monitor employee compliance. This will ensure the records that have met their retention period will continue to be destroyed in accordance with the policy. Employees will continue to monitor their email account saving those messages that meet the definition of a record and deleting those that do not.

Currently the city is reviewing best practice methods for conducting audits to ensure employee compliance with the records management policies and procedures. The target date for our first records audit is slated for the fall of 2017.

Future Direction
With the introduction of the Information Governance concept and the purely digital future organizations will need to consider all aspects of their electronic information whether this information is deemed records or non-records, all will need to be managed. The city is preparing for this with the implementation of the e-Discovery tool, document management and increased training for employees in information awareness, how to manage all information while adhering to records retention schedules.

The city will also keep its finger on the pulse for new and emerging technology and trends to ensure that we continue to be on the forefront.

Stay tuned as our records management journey continues.......A Quest for Excellence!