Why doesn’t records charge back?

One of the problems for records, is that it is always a cost centre.

It is almost never percieved as a value centre.

Why should it be though?

The organisation that consumes its service can consume an unlimited amount of service and never has to pay a dollar for it – demand just has to be met within legislated timelines.

What would happen if business units had to pay for the services they consumed from records management?

I think the main thing that would happen, is that we would be able to have sensible conversations about:

  1. Whether specific working practices are valuable to the organisation.
  2. Staffing levels.
  3. Quality of service.
  4. Outsourcing and insourcing.

At the moment, none of the records teams I work with have enough staff for the workload that they have. The problem is that the workload is largely workload that we choose because we write policy based on sensible information and records management practices. The problem though, is that their value to our organisation is rarely validated before we commit time and money to them.

Take disposition for instance. Has a business unit ever come to us and said “we’d really like you to destroy our Old (deliberately capitalised) records” – I’d bet it’s never happened in the history of records.

What would happen though, if we started to charge them for:

  • The volume of records they’re storing (paper and electronic).
  • The searches they needed done by us because they couldn’t find their own records (because the quality of what their staff are storing is so poor).
  • The service time to complete an FOI – because if their recordkeeping practices are up to snuff, they’d be able to find it themselves.

At some point, we would be able to have a conversation with them about ways to reduce their storage and search costs through disposition – and at that point we are having a conversation about how to provide an outcome for a project cost to reduce an ongoing cost – rather than just trying to fund something we’re not sure they value out of the limitless well of time and having the records pay the bill.

So why don’t we charge back?

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