How to Avoid Records Management System Failure

Fire Department evaluating records management system
Records management systems are used by public safety agencies such as fire, police, and other groups to help them run their operations more efficiently. These records are often protected or regulated, and they may need to be publicly accessible. These factors can complicate implementations, thus increasing the need to avoid typical pitfalls.

Records management systems are used by public safety agencies such as fire, police, and other groups to help them run their operations more efficiently. These records are often protected or regulated, and they may need to be publicly accessible. These factors can complicate implementations, thus increasing the need to avoid typical pitfalls.

3 common points of failure with records management systems

Here are some of the most significant problem areas our clients have encountered. Having this information can help decrease the risk of an RMS failure.

1. an Uninformed Selection Process

The most significant RMS challenges occur during the software selection process. Public safety agencies can fall into the trap of looking at the market and quickly identifying a solution that is specifically tailored to organizations in the same field, though their own requirements are much more specific. You do not want to find incompatibilities and wasted resources after you are already several months deep into an implementation.

Knowledge gathering is necessary at the very beginning of these projects, due to regulations, IT resources, gap analysis, scope, organizational requirements, and software capabilities. We have some great material on the process for Records Management System replacement to help you take the right approach. This article will focus on some of the assumptions and knowledge gaps, which many organizations fail to identify during their initial selection process.

Defining Scope: Do not assume you only need to replace the RMS capabilities

You may be operating with some capabilities in your current records management system, while others operate through a separate application. Many organizations start by assuming they will replace the current RMS capabilities when there might be a great opportunity to replace everything with one RMS, eliminating a lot of complexity.

We advise beginning at the top-line level to understand those modules currently use or need. These might include:

  • Incident reporting
  • Patient Care Reports/Medical Reports
  • Training program, including certification and documentation
  • Life safety (scheduling inspections, pre-plans)
  • Scheduling and Rostering

There are solutions which contain all of the above. Once you know the capabilities you want, be aware that each one of those areas can have specialized needs, determining which records management software would work for your organization. For rostering, you might be doing a 48/96 schedule, or when calculating vacations, you might need to consider seniority or overtime. Each capability needs to have the right tools and features, while being able to communicate with other applications.

Additional top-level software considerations

  • Do you need a mobile-centric solution?
  • Are you looking for Software as a Service (SaaS) or on-premise RMS?

2. Change Management Risks

Changing your records management system will impact the entire organization. It will change how workers find and document information. Change management is important because it ensures that everyone will be able to perform their jobs during the transition. Organizations tend to understand they need to pay attention to this transition period; however, there are some mistakes which are easily avoided.

How to avoid change management problems

  • Be transparent with workers about your RMS change by notifying everyone as soon as possible in the process.
  • Create a dedicated team of subject matter experts (SMEs). This team will know the new tools, as well as the old. They will be the go-to individuals for operations people. Make sure that everyone in the field has a contact point SME.
  • Put into place a concise training program to properly relay information regarding use of the tools per your regulations and procedures way.
  • Training needs to include devices that will be used in the field to make the transition as seamless as possible

3. Data Migration

Public safety departments are required to maintain very large amounts of data; however, many continue to use older tools or even paper. Regulations might mandate data be kept for specified periods of time, or that certain information be made publicly available. These factors can complicate the process of extracting data into a usable format moving forward.

Data should be considered during software selection because it can stall projects or increase the resources required to complete projects to such an extent as to cause your new records management software to fail, especially in cases where the current system does not have good exporting/reporting/database features.

No matter how simple the implementation seems, you need to make sure you understand the level of compatibility between old and new systems. Even different versions of the same software can be incompatible due to changes in regulations. Do not take data migration for granted.

Take a deeper look at data migration during RMS selection

During the software selection process, take the time to identify your organization’s reporting needs. Understand the level of detail required. Understand any format changes between old and new systems, and create a plan for handling those discrepancies. You might use databases that are external to the new system but which can still be accessed by the new product. There are any number of potential solutions to data challenges, and the earlier you think through the solution, the more efficient and effective these solutions will be.

Notes on Starting a New RMS Implementation

There is certainly a lot to know about records management software before beginning a new implementation; this article provides only an outline. Significant knowledge regarding technicalities, regulations, and your unique organization should be taken into consideration as early as possible. Implementations can be delayed for months or even fail completely when individuals with the requisite knowledge are not available when they are needed. These projects are not the kind where you can hire someone from outside the organization to be a part of your permanent staff. We strongly encourage you to plan ahead, so that you know there will be no mistakes.

We have helped many organizations implement records management systems. We know you are in the emergency business: your plate is full. We would love to take you through the process, ensuring a successful and timely completion.

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