Business challenge

As information volumes at Hennepin County grew, so too did the risk and cost associated with managing this content. How could the organization take back control of its data?


Hennepin County is building a robust framework for managing the lifecycle of millions of electronic records, supported by IBM® Enterprise Records and IBM FileNet® Content Manager software.


Reduces risk

by enforcing consistent records management and retention policies

Cuts costs

by defensibly disposing of data that is no longer of business or legal value

More efficient

content management unlocks greater value from information assets

Business challenge

Rising tide of information

Hennepin is the largest county in Minnesota, with a population of more than 1.1 million people. These residents rely on Hennepin County Government for vital services, from food and health care assistance to transportation and housing.

Such extensive operations generate equally large volumes of information for Hennepin County to manage. More than 20 years ago, the organization went digital, building a centralized repository for electronic documents with IBM FileNet® Content Manager. Today, the platform holds over 60 million files and is used by eight government departments, including human services, public health and the county court system.

As its electronic document volumes soared, Hennepin County grew concerned that a lack of consistency around managing content was driving up costs and risk.

Karen Axel, Business Analyst in Records Management for Human Services and Public Health at Hennepin County, elaborates: “We had established some policies for defensibly disposing of data for regulatory purposes, but otherwise we ended up following a ‘retain everything forever’ approach. As our data volumes grew over the years, we realized that it was simply unsustainable to store all content indefinitely.

“Like many county governments, we operate with a tight budget and we didn’t want to have those limited resources swallowed up by constantly rising storage demands. We were also opening ourselves up to a great deal of unnecessary risk around eDiscovery. We regularly receive requests to preserve relevant electronically stored information as part of a legal hold. As the amount of content we store increases, so too does the cost, risk and effort involved in an eDiscovery response—and we wanted to find a way to minimize this.”

Beyond reducing the ongoing expense of storing, managing and backing up data, we anticipate that improved records retention will drive down the cost of responding to eDiscovery requests.

Mark Miller, Principal Systems Software Programmer, Hennepin County

Transformation story

Shaping smarter records management

Hennepin County set out to shape a new strategy for managing information throughout its lifecycle. The organization’s priorities were twofold: create a robust records retention schedule and establish consistent policies for maintaining and disposing of content based on regulatory, legal and operational requirements.

To help streamline its records management efforts, Hennepin County decided to deploy IBM Enterprise Records. Mark Miller, Principal Systems Software Programmer at Hennepin County, recalls: “One of the key reasons why we chose Enterprise Records is because of its close integration with our existing content management system. FileNet Content Manager is a critical platform for our organization and finding a records management solution that fit into our environment so seamlessly was a big plus.”

To guide a smooth implementation of Enterprise Records, Hennepin County chose to work with local content management specialist and IBM Business Partner, Genus Technologies. Axel comments: “Genus Technologies was a great partner. The team worked alongside us to design and deploy Enterprise Records, and helped with knowledge transfer so that our developers and programmers could successfully manage the solution themselves.”

As part of its Enterprise Records deployment, Hennepin County established thoroughly defined processes for defensibly disposing of information. The organization works with two primary types of records: case files and person files—the latter pertain to documents containing personal data on citizens. It uses information provided by state and county agencies to create retention policies for these records, which are reviewed by relevant business members before being put into effect.

In addition, Hennepin County has built a “purge queue” for automating electronic content disposal. This process sweeps records systems once every hour; if it finds a document that has passed its retention date, it will mark that item for deletion. Subsequently, another process will sweep FileNet Content Manager to check if any of the documents in the purge queue are linked to case or person files and, if so, marks them for advanced-level disposition. This triggers an additional workflow, which validates whether any of the documents marked for deletion are linked to active case or person files. Inactive documents are purged automatically; active documents are removed from the purge queue and placed back into a normal records state.

Defensible disposal at Hennepin County doesn’t stop with electronic files. The organization also stores physical records at an off-site archiving facility. When teams purge an electronic document from Hennepin County’s systems, another team will be notified to dispose of any corresponding physical records as well.

Axel notes: “When you have very complex, interdependent processes like we do, your content management and retention requirements can be quite complicated. One of the advantages of Enterprise Records is that it delivers the enhanced capabilities we need to address these complexities and put together a very defined process for records retention.”

With a better understanding of the content that we have, and a more consistent way of managing that content throughout its lifecycle, we can empower our people to work with information more productively.

Karen Axel, Business Analyst in Records Management, Human Services and Public Health, Hennepin County

Results story

Driving down costs and risk

By establishing responsible, standardized retention schedules for its enterprise records, Hennepin County is driving a more proactive and methodical approach to information management, which will help reduce costs and risk.

“With well-defined retention schedules in place, we can routinely and defensibly dispose of information that is no longer of business, regulatory or legal value,” states Miller. “Beyond reducing the ongoing expense of storing, managing and backing up data, we anticipate that improved records retention will drive down the cost of responding to eDiscovery requests.

“Now that we aren’t retaining everything forever, records teams will no longer have to sift through years and years of documents looking for every piece of potentially relevant information. With clear retention dates for records, our teams can be confident that we’re not holding on to content past a certain date and we can shrink the scope of eDiscovery activities, saving time, effort and money. Plus, we can provide a full audit trail to prove that disposal has been based on policies that are compliant with our contracts and regulations.”

Ultimately, by helping to ensure that information is captured, retained and disposed of properly, a strong records management framework enables Hennepin County to operate more efficiently—delivering greater value for taxpayers’ dollars.

Axel concludes: “With a better understanding of the content that we have, and a more consistent way of managing that content throughout its lifecycle, we can empower our people to work with information more productively—providing the insight and control they need to deliver responsive service to citizens and shape services that enhance the health, safety and quality of life of residents and communities in Hennepin County.

business logo

About Hennepin County

Hennepin County is a county in the US state of Minnesota that is made up of 45 municipalities, including the city of Minneapolis. Home to more than 1.1 million people, Hennepin is the largest of Minnesota’s 87 counties in budget, estimated market value and population.

Solution components

Take the next step

IBM offers a comprehensive, scalable Unified Governance and Integration platform and solutions—available on premises, on cloud and hybrid environments—successfully delivering trusted data for insights and compliance to businesses, governments and individuals. Learn more about Unified Governance and Integration at Follow us on Twitter at @IBMAnalytics, on our blog at and join the conversation #IBMUGI.

View more client stories or learn more about IBM Unified Governance & Integration Solution

Genus Technologies helps clients to unify the management of enterprise content, video and rich media, providing centralized control over all their digital assets. Founded in 2008, Genus Technologies is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.