I’m Ellie. Welcome to my first Collabware blog entry. As Records Management Specialist at Collabware, my main job is to bring records management requirements, along with usability and productivity requirements, to the table so our awesome team of developers can realize them in our main product, Collabware CLM. On this blog, I will be discussing various RM issues and even unveiling some of the cool features we’ve included in the CLM 2.3 release.

Today’s topic is the disposition approval process.

What is it?

While retention is about how long to retain records, disposition is about how to treat records when the retention period has been fully reached, which in most cases, requires a review and approval process before records are destroyed or kept permanently. This approval process is important because it informs the record stakeholders of the status of those records before disposition actions are actually performed and seeks their authorization.

Most records management professionals I am acquainted with have extremely busy work schedules and wrestling with thousands or even millions of electronic records for disposition can be an overwhelming task. The same can be said of senior managers who are required to review and approve the list.

Here are some of the key factors that complicate the disposition approval process:

  • approval form must be manually completed and reviewed for error
  • IT support may be required to generate the list of documents/files that are subject to approval
  • form must be physically circulated among record stakeholders (“approvers”) for their review and authorization
  • too many records to dispose of but very little time for records managers to review them and coordinate the approval process
  • IT support is required for the destruction of electronic records
  • depending on the classification or the context of records, the persons approving the list can vary, which adds even more complications to the process

In addition, if your organization aims to pursue the paperless office concept, the production of paper-based disposition authority forms and Certificate of Dispositions does not support that goal.

The Collabware solution

To address the above disposition approval issues, we are excited to introduce the disposition approval workflow capability in CLM 2.3.

Now, records managers can create and manage approval lists for bulk record disposition approval. The lists can be generated across any number of record categories in order to provide approvers the ability to review, modify, accept or decline disposition on items in a bulk format.

Here are some of the highlights of CLM's disposition approval workflow:

  • CLM workflow is not a SharePoint workflow: Our disposition approval workflow was designed in-house and is different from the SharePoint workflow. It is very easy to use, so special training for users may not be required.
  • Automatic generation of approval list: Simply select an Approver (e.g., Chief Financial Officer) and all items that are ready for final disposition action by that approver are surfaced. Using our dynamic filtering system that is attached with the list display, you have insight to the classifications, disposition actions or even policies (retention stages) where these records belong.
  • Flexibility & scalability: Scale out your disposition task by choosing the number of records (500, 5000 or ALL) to perform disposition action on and/or by choosing records belonging to a particular classification (i.e., select 2 categories, 10 categories or all applicable categories). There are also other ways (e.g., policy, dates, disposition action type, etc.) to group and choose your records for disposition approval.
  • Flawless handling of records that require “selective retention” disposition action: Some classifications have “selective retention” as the final disposition. This process may require an individual review of the records, which can be daunting. With our approval workflow, you decide (individual or multi-select) which records should be permanently retained or destroyed.
  • Faster, more efficient approval process: A CLM-generated approval task is automatically sent to the approving members via email. They simply click a URL link provided in the email to review the task. All they need to do is click the accept button to approve the list/task. A notification email to the next approver group will then be sent out for their review and authorization. No more time is wasted on delivering forms.
  • Transparent process: Click the approval task link and you can track the review process (who did what, when). You can view comments made by participants and items that were flagged by participants that require a records manager's attention.
  • Spot-check records without searching: You don’t need to search for the item in the system to verify the record due for disposition. Click the thumbnail button from the approval task display, and you can review everything about the record (classification, record declaration date, who created it, audit history, retention schedule, etc.) and even open the document.
  • Automatic generation of Certificate of Disposition: After the successful completion of the approval workflow and the following disposition action execution processes, CLM generates the Certificate of Disposition in PDF/A format (archival PDF format). The certificate displays information about the approval process, the approving members, as well as detailed information about the records that went through the disposition action.

We will be hosting a webinar on CLM 2.3 in mid-October, and it will include a demonstration on the disposition approval workflow. Check our Events and Webinars page for details and registration.

How does your organization process disposition approvals? Do you need to review the current process and assess which areas can be improved? I'd be happy to hear what factors block records managers from handling disposition approval processes in a timely manner.

End note: I will be attending the ARMA International Conference in Chicago (Sept. 23-25, 2012) and the UNESCO Memory of the World Conference in Vancouver (Sept 26-28, 2012). Please send me an email (ekim@collabware.com) to connect if you are attending any of the conferences.