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Look Around Your Office: A Practical Records Management Strategy

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Working with a broad range of industries throughout the years on their information governance and records management initiatives, one thing that constantly baffles the mind: Organizations still place the keystone responsibility to make their initiative successful in the hands of the user.

Inevitably, all the best plans, processes, and change management efforts to strengthen your information management strategy comes down to what the end user does with their information.  Many organizations develop very thorough record retention schedules, classification schemes and information taxonomies, only to default burdening the user to pick, select or assign one or more values to the information.

If your organization fits into this description, take a minute to look around the next time you are walking to the lunch room or to your next meeting.  Notice the state of the desks.  It goes without saying that you will see all situations; but in general, many of the desks will be in what appears to be disarray.

This isn’t an indictment of people in general or a reflection of their intelligence, it is just the state of being.  Many people find organization in what some would call “chaos”.  Most would even defend their situation by stating “I can find anything I need”.

Now, let’s apply what we have seen to your information and records strategy.  Your plans hinge on the exact people whose desks you have observed.  Can we expect that these people will sit through some process to classify and potentially organize the information into a scheme that they didn’t develop?  Unlikely. And with only a third of the adult population capable of performing medium-complexity tasks using computers, a records strategy that relies on them to properly classify information is a plan that is designed to fail.

The situation isn’t a new one, so don’t feel like your organization has made a huge error.  However, take this opportunity to stop, think, and find alternatives to address the situation.

Here are some options that you may consider:

  • AI and machine learning – leveraging these technology options can go a long way to helping achieve your objectives.  We won’t go into the pros and cons, but let’s just say that these technologies will help significantly - as long as your organization understands the limitations and sets expectations accordingly. Machine learning, when properly implemented and supported
  • Technology features – depending on the type of repositories or tools that you put in place, you may have the option to define business rules and automation to perform the classification and categorization based on different factors, such as file type, name, location, or a combination of these and other factors.  Assigning tags or something as simple as more generalized classification for different locations will do a lot to minimize end user reliance.
  • Alter the approach – leveraging new approaches to information governance and records management can greatly increase your success.  These new approaches place the classification in the hands of a smaller set of resources, using technology to transparently classify the information behind the scenes.  This leaves the users unaware that the information is being classified, but can achieve the same results.

In summary, don’t fall into the obvious trap of many information governance and records strategies by relying on the biggest source of failure, the user. Take a walk and look around.

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