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Intelligent Records Management Requires a New Way of Thinking

Technology is an enabler for sure. But without the right resources and direction, it can also be an inhibiter. Once an enterprise decides that all corporate information has the potential of being a corporate asset, the next step is to establish a continuous program to identify, improve, and protect this asset just like any other. 

Unfortunately, this is where the disconnect exists for most companies. They pay lip service to the idea that information is or can be an asset, but dedicate few resources to that asset’s management and improvement. It's a cost of doing business that typically doesn't manifest itself until something goes wrong.

All assets have value and are subject to risk

Imagine drilling an oil well and then not continuously trying to improve its performance. Or owning a fleet of long haul 18-wheelers, but not performing regular maintenance to ensure safety and reliability. But how about properly managing a gas purchase contract to understand unique terms in the contract that could create a significant liability if breached?

The first example would only happen by accident. The second example occurs when a company doesn't have a rigorous asset management program. But what about the third example? That happens all of the time, and is usually left undiscovered until a legal action that, at a minimum, results in incurring unnecessary legal expense or worse. All three examples represent possible scenarios that organizations should work to prevent from happening.

The management of the risks discussed in the first two examples is typically overseen via Enterprise Asset Management software that ensures these events don't occur. But what about the contract example? Who owns the problem? Who takes responsibility for making sure this problem is solved?

The CIO needs to focus more on information

In many organizations, information ownership is loosely defined. An obvious answer is the Chief Information Officer. By title, this is the person who is responsible for corporate information. Or are they? Most CIOs are information officers in title only. Their day-to-day duties revolve around the systems that house data rather than the data. Moreover, their budgets are typically heavily weighted to maintaining the existing systems with little room for new initiatives. Who's going to sponsor such an enormous initiative if it is not the CIO?

The age of EIM

Companies attempt to identify "information owners" in the various operating departments. The flaw with this approach is the departmental nature of it. It makes plenty of sense to identify information owners, but those resources need to be integrated across the enterprise to be effective. By establishing an enterprise information management function that is responsible for the wellbeing of enterprise information, the chance of long term success goes way up.

A logical group to own initiative is the Records Management department. Why? Because their job is already about managing the known information assets of the business that have been deemed records. This also means that a new generation of Records Managers is required. The new generation look more like data scientists than library scientists. Organization is critical, but identification and quality are equal conspirators. Finding out about critical business records based on some external event is usually too late. 

In the next part of this series, I’ll provide a practical path forward to achieving Intelligent Records Management. 

By David Quackenbush

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Gimmal at ARMA International InfoCon 2019

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