Records Management Merger: Best Ways to Handle the Merging of Records

Jeremy Dunn

As your company continues to grow, merger and acquisition activity is likely to increase. While growth and expansion have the potential to augment profit/loss margins, some aspects of mergers can pose challenges — especially if they’re not addressed early on in the process. Business leaders heading a merger must ensure that the records management merger goes as smoothly as possible. As records management processes for each party may be disparate or even incompatible, this can often be a difficult process.

Just as the merging of multiple companies results in a single entity, disparate records management procedures must be brought together into a unified system. Due diligence is an absolute priority. Lack of due diligence during the records management merger process can set up business investment, compliance and regulatory risks, besides impacting the internal reorganization of records. It’s crucial to include a records management professional in the due diligence process to address records management concerns prior to and directly following the merger or acquisition. This may include an audit of the records management system you’re inheriting.

Having a records management professional involved allows your organization to gain foresight into what it’s up against, as well as how the incoming procedures perform against the ones you currently use. At this initial stage, you can address any gaps or inconsistencies. Make sure you know when the last records inventory took place. It’s wise to review the retention schedules for all parties involved in the merger and to identify data that will have special transfer requirements (e.g., password protected and encrypted).

Additionally, thoroughly evaluate all service level agreements with records management vendors from each party. This helps ensure that you’re getting the best service during and after the merger.

Documentation and training on new policies and schedules is another essential element of a successful records management merger. Staff must be trained on the updated procedures within the newly integrated system. Training should occur during the early stages of the merger process.

The merger could create an overload of irrelevant or outdated records. Therefore, your company should plan for a secure and potentially extensive document and media disposal process. This includes both physical and electronic files. With all these additional tasks, you may need to modify staffing in order to manage the volume of records, both current and incoming.

It’s recommended that you create a tier-based categorization for all incoming and current data. This is usually a post-merger step that helps ensure that information is easily traceable and accessible for authorized users. Documents that may be subject to litigation or ongoing investigations should be identified and preserved.

While merging records management procedures can be a daunting task, with some preparation and care, the transition can be smooth and beneficial.

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