Determining your objectives when choosing to outsource
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to outsourcing Records. Most vendors offer a range of services, making it important for a firm to define what it hopes to achieve prior to sending RFPs. A successful partnership is easier to achieve with clear objectives whether:
- Re-establishing a records department withnew staff and even new technology solutions.
- Continuing with existing staff(now employed by the vendor) and policies with future hiring, HR and oversight from the outsourcing vendor.
- Any point in between. For example,do you want your outsource vendor to draft information governance policies? Who will negotiate offsite storage contracts?
Our speakers discussed the advantages and disadvantages of using the same vendor that you use to outsource your other office services (mail, printing, etc) vs hiring a vendor that specializes in records and information governance. One of the key advantages to using your office services vendor was having readily available backup in your offices. For some smaller offices in smaller markets it may be difficult to find qualified records staff; so having a pool of familiar staff can help you out.
Management considerations and co-employment issues
Some firms have long considered all staff to be part of the firm culture and prefer fewer distinctions among staff. Other firms prefer a designated service center, with in-office signage and branded shirts. It is important to consider the effect on firm culture when making these decisions. Our speakers had a variety of experiences regarding firm events such as holiday parties.
We discussed the issues around giving additional responsibilities (along with raises and promotions) to outsourced staff. Since the outsourced employee is not employed by the firm, the firm cannot give her a promotion or a bonus. One of our speakers had been in this situation as an outsourced employee, so we talked about how the firm could work with the vendor to retain great employees.
One participant raised a question about how best to advance the profession and provide training for outsourced employees, so we talked about providing access to certifications and whether training can be done on company time.
Access and risk management
With good Information Governance, it is important to consider how to enforce information controls when outsourcing. While all vendors should have non-disclosure and insurance agreements, many firms choose to maintain Risk Management functions in-house from matter mobility and retention policy enforcement to contract management. On our call we had one manager who is employed by the vendor and one manager who is a law firm employee. We stressed having a good relationship with the firm’s General Counsel. We also discussed the difficulty in managing network access for outsourced employees when so much of the records function is electronic.
Accountability and oversight
Outsourcing initiatives can lead to several unexpected benefits. Considering who is responsible for each task leads to a more efficient and nimble department and helps align resources for new firm initiatives. A successful outsourcing partnership can help standardize IG practices and implement responsible policies. Our speakers agreed that outsourcing vendors usually provide more rigorous reporting and metrics than in-house departments.