5 Steps to Planning a Winning RIM System

August 14, 2020

It can be hard to know where to even begin when planning for a new records management system. Implementing a new records management software can be a daunting undertaking with its a unique set of challenges. A successful implementation requires inter-department collaboration, effective communication, clear scope definition, and most importantly, patience.

This post will act as a guide as you plan your records management software project, and share pointers on what to do, and what to avoid.

Areas of Focus:

Research: Key considerations to aid your research process

Buy-In: How to show the business value

Consideration: What you should consider and what questions to ask

your software vendor

Data Migration: Tips for planning your data migration

Onboarding for Success: Importance of training your team

1 – Research: Key Considerations to Help You Plan Your Research Process

You or someone at your organization has recognized the need for a new system to manage the lifecycle of records – and now you’re in charge of putting together a list of possible solutions to bring to your manager or in some cases, a dedicated committee.

While all project phases are important, the initial research phase of a new RIM software project is critical to your success – not only to ensure a smooth implementation but to also provide a sustainable solution.

As you start to research software products, it’s good to have this information on hand as you begin initial conversations:

  • What types of records are you tracking? How will they be managed in this new system?

    • Digital documents – in file shares or in another system?

    • Paper records – stored on or offsite?

    • Other physical assets, such as rolls of microfilm or archival items?

  • For physical records, about how many boxes and files are there?

  • Are physical items currently barcoded?

  • How many users will be using the system?

    • If you’re not sure, think about who is involved in requesting, day-to-day management, and approvals of your records processes.

Also know your current process for:

 How new records are added to your current system

  • How record requests are handled

  • How your records retention schedule is enforced across your organization

  • Process for managing legal holds

  • Approvals for disposition and destruction of records

2 – Buy-In: Showing the Business Value of a Modern System

You’ve seen the light – you have researched and evaluated, made spreadsheets and compared checklists, and you’ve identified the new software product that will power your records management program. Now it’s time to get buy-in from leadership. Don’t let all of your hard work and expertise fall on deaf ears - when all is said and done, it all comes down to whether you can effectively show the potential ROI of a new system.

If you’re not sure where to start, take a cross-functional approach and form alliances with IT or your in-house legal counsel. Depending on where Records Management falls within your organization, you may have already involved them.

While there are many areas that are unique to certain industries or businesses, be sure to cover these areas when presenting your case for a new RIM system:

  • Compliance

  • Cost

  • Productivity

  • Business Value


Depending on your industry, awareness of general compliance policies can vary – in highly regulated industries like pharmaceuticals and life sciences, compliance is a very effective driver of innovation and investment.

  • How records are being stored – is it compliant with all industry and government regulations?

  • Know your industry standards – have you identified an area that is out of compliance?

  • Are there any current compliance initiatives that could benefit from better records management? Inquire with IT and your in-house legal department to discover how your concerns and findings can be included under larger projects

  • Initiate internal audit and review of departments or process that deal with records to uncover an non-compliance with company or industry standards


How much is being spent on storing boxes of paper records? Unless you have a system that automatically tracks the location, lifecycle, and access of these records, your organization may be paying to store thousands of records past their retention period. How can the business justify this?

Another consideration is real estate costs – remember that dedicating more office space to file rooms means not getting the most of your office space.


 Organizations are always looking to improve productivity. Consider the following:

  • How has poor records and information management policies impacted the team?
  • How would more efficient records management practices improve the team?
  • What are some recent examples of times better records management would have facilitated more efficiencies?
    • Think about areas such as a recent lawsuit, pandemic impact, remote working, and transitioning processes

Business Value

When advocating for your project, speak the language of the decision makers: metrics about time, money, productivity, and efficiency all show the business value. Creating business value is pivotal to moving your project forward.

Start by thinking about the users (or think of them as customers). Aim to understand how they currently interact with your organization’s records management processes so you can create more value for them. Consider:

  • Will this new system seamlessly facilitate a once arduous process or automate a once complex task?
  • Will this new system increase visibility into what records and information your organization actually has?

3 - Consideration: Questions to Ask Your Potential Software Provider

The right records and information management vendor can transform your program – providing the expertise and technology to execute your vision and exceed your expectations. It is critical that you and your team have a deep understanding of your new records and information management initiative's goals, pain-points, and planned outcomes before engaging the vendor. Different vendors solve different problems, so it's important to work with a vendor that provides the solution that best fits your organization's specific needs.

What to Ask Your Software Vendor

While the types of questions can depend on your industry, here are some important questions to ask your potential software vendors.

  • What services does the vendor offer? Do they provide record storage or software only?
  • Do they provide software for physical records only, electronic records only, or both?
  • How does the vendor store record metadata? Is it compliant with all industry and government regulations?
  • Does the vendor meet have the necessary security or industry certifications to work with your organization?
  • How much experience do they have within your industry?
  • What is the vendor's typical project timeline?
  • What factors or circumstances impact the project timeline?
  • Who is on the vendor's project team? What is each team member's role?
  • How is change management handled?

4 – Planning a Successful Data Migration to Your New System

One of the biggest factors to consider when planning your RIM project is what to do with all of your legacy data.

Legacy data can pose problems when migrating to a new system, especially if the data is unstructured. However, legacy data can be valuable as it can contain the history of the records, the secure audit trail, and metadata that is current, up-to-date, and actively in use.

It is important for your organization’s records and information management team to work in concert with the IT team to determine the value and condition of the legacy data before migrating the data into the new system.

Data migration and conversion can be a lengthy process, especially if the data is not in good condition. Migrating bad data will increase the cost of conversion, lengthen the project for your organization, and could impact the usability of the new system.

Here are tips for your team to ensure the data is valuable and the migration goes smoothly:

  • Legacy Data Needed: Work with business and process owners to determine if all legacy data is needed. Ask, “do we have use for this metadata anymore? Are these metadata fields still valuable?”

  • Condition of Data: Once you’ve determined which data needs to be migrated, then determine the condition of the data.

    • If the data is dirty, be sure to remediate it before providing to your software vendor, as cleansing of data could mean additional costs and longer timeline.

  • Data Conversion: Ask your vendor if they have any data conversion sheets—using the vendor’s preferred template ensures your data is efficiently and correctly migrated.

5 – Onboarding for Success and the Importance of Training Your Team

The last step in a successful implementation of a new RIM system is onboarding and training. It is key that power users, administrators, and end-users are all able to use the system correctly and efficiently.

A lack of proper training can jeopardize the success and adoption of the new records management system.

When planning your training, consider the following:

How many people will be trained: Is the new system enterprise-wide or for only one department with a few users?

Location of training: Does training occur onsite at your organization, the vendor’s location, or is it

done remotely?

Who will provide the training: Does the vendor provide all training to all users, or do they use a 'train-the-trainer' model? Can users self-train using modules or videos?

How much training will be provided? Will training be provided over time, or will it be provided after implementation? Are there options to receive additional training if needed?

There is no right or wrong way to train for the new system. All that matters is the training methodology caters to the needs and requirements of your team.

Be sure to work with your provider to determine what combination of training services make the most sense for your use case. This will allow you to get the most out of your new records and information management system, along with ensuring users remain compliant with new processes long after implementation.

Read next: Why Records Management is More Important Than Ever →