Let It Snow: Why E-Records Clean-up is Like Shovelling Snow

It was the Sunday morning before Christmas and all through the night a steady snowfall had blanketed the city.   I was digging out my driveway, hacking through the wall of ice and snow at the end of my driveway when it struck me how similar shovelling snow is to electronic records cleanup.  It may seem like an abstract connection to make at first, but allow me to expound my thought.

1.       More (often) is Better

First it takes a certain mentality to tackle electronic records cleanup just as it does to clear snow during a snowstorm.  It does not matter how much you clear, you know more is coming – and there is nothing you can do to stop the snow from falling or the information from flowing.

During a snow storm it is tempting to remain in the warm confines of the house and wax poetic about the beauty of the fresh fluffy white stuff; however if you do not engage the elements early and often the fresh fluffy white stuff turns into hard, heavy, backbreaking work.  If you stagger your attack on the snow at regular intervals throughout the snow storm rather than waiting for it to pile up, it is much easier to remove.

Likewise cleanup and disposition of electronic records is best done regularly as part of operations.  If cleanup and disposition are relegated to a major initiative done every few years (if lucky), then the amount of effort required to manage the information will only increase.  More frequent removal of unnecessary information is more effective and efficient.

2.      Time is of the Essence

Unfortunately regular cleanup and disposition are not often the norm.  Impending implementations of new EDRM systems are often the impetus needed to justify mass cleanup and disposition initiatives.  This is akin to waiting out the storm and digging yourself out of your driveway with a deadline looming – say a Christmas service to get to or the expected arrival of holiday guests.  Though this is not the preferred method, it is also not the prelude to doom if planned for.   You must gauge the amount of time and effort required to dig yourself out before your deadline.  If you do not allot an adequate amount of time you will be frantically clearing snow away from the end of your driveway with a car full of in-laws waiting to pull into said driveway which is not a good way to begin the holidays.

Do not underestimate the time and effort cleanup takes.  When planning a cleanup as a prelude to EDRMS implementation, you will want to approach business groups about cleanup at least three months prior to the initial meetings regarding the EDRMS implementation.  Keep in mind business groups have their regular operation to attend to in addition to cleanup and thus the cleanup initiative will not always be the priority.  If you do not leave enough time then you and the business groups will inevitably feel rushed and perhaps panicked as the deadline draws near.

Cleanup and disposition initiatives are an excellent time for business groups to validate their folder structure and perhaps start thinking about modifications to the structure that could be implemented in the new EDRMS.  Leaving enough time will allow for groups to not only get rid of unwanted material but will also help them organize the remaining information.

3.      Don’t Do It Alone

Shovelling snow as well as electronic records cleanup is always easier with a number of well coordinated and experienced workers, especially when others have superior technological means.

My neighbour has a snow blower and we have a nice little arrangement worked out.  While I clear the hard, packed snow deposited by the ploughs at the end of the driveways that the snow blower has a hard time breaking down, he clears the rest.

In the realm of electronic records clean up, your neighbourhood IT specialist is invaluable.  The proper query applied to the correct system can expedite your efforts tremendously.  For example, during a recent cleanup initiative I used a report that our systems analyst generated to identify a completely duplicated branch of information – thousands of documents and over 75 GBs worth of copies, one branch apart from each other in the folder structure.  Removing the copies represented a considerable decrease in our file holdings with absolutely zero knowledge loss for the organization.  Moreover it took me a fraction of the time and effort to identify the duplicated information than if I had not had the reports.

Do not forget that there are those of us who have travelled this road before and are willing to come alongside, shovel in hand, and contribute to your efforts.  Many hands (especially skilled hands) make light of a heavy load.


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