September 28, 2018

Making Records Intelligent

5 minute read

So, what makes a record different from any other piece of information - electronic or physical? How does one identify something as a record? Who gets to decide? Is there an approval process for verifying business records? Does every piece of content need to be investigated for record quality? How about voice messages, text messages, and chat threads?

This blog series began with a discussion about next generation records management and continued to define the role of records managers and automation as they relate to the next generation of records management. When considered in its entirety, the concept of investigating all of the content possessed by most organizations is overwhelming. However, like most problem solving exercises, it is best to dissect the problem into smaller, more manageable problems. Starting this way allows for the creation of an action plan or roadmap and a real opportunity to achieve success.

So where do we start?

Put your priorities in order.

I have always looked at this problem in two parts. First, what do we need to start doing with new information that we are creating or receiving? After that is defined, we can ask: what do we do with the legacy information?

Let's start with the new information. Here's a (very) simplified checklist:

  1. Determine when, where, and how information is either created or enters the organization and who owns it
  2. Determine the acceptable locations to initially store this content (We won't debate the single vs. multi-repository argument. That train has left the station )
  3. Define the minimum classification requirements for content as it enters or is created
  4. Determine the lifecycle and associated changes in metadata and location
  5. Define the exception process(es) when questions arise
  6. Define the disposition process(es) associated with each state of the lifecycle

Most organizations struggle with the concept of starting fresh because most business users don't want to use two systems that theoretically do the same thing. This creates pressure on these programs to solve both problems simultaneously. This is usually a mistake for larger enterprises due to sheer volume of existing content, and the fact that it is stored many different ways. Usually, this content is not stored the same way the organization wants to store information in the future.

It's time to clean the corporate arteries of the data cholesterol that is preventing your organization from functioning effectively. Start the next generation of your information management journey by building the structures that best fit the current and projected future state of the business.

Learn to let go of what came before.

Now what to do with the legacy information? Recently, I have spoken with a number of organizations who are making tough decisions about the retention of information that is not marked as important - be that a record or some other business critical piece of content. Tough decisions that put the responsibility back on the information owners to take action regarding the information they are actually using. This is as simple as putting simple time limits on untouched information before it is "dispositioned.” These rule should extend across email, content in share drives, and content stored in other ECM repositories.

Shine a light on dark data.

Another significant challenge is identifying the "dark data" that exists and making sure it is either managed properly or dispositioned as well. Compliance with information management policy is an interesting challenge if you can't attest to managing all of the information in the organization. Yet it is an easy bet that the vast majority of organizations are not aware of all the repositories where corporate information is stored. Change management is a big part of any exercise with the goal of finding and properly managing all of the information in the enterprise, which includes disposition. Proper change management requires the participation of and endorsement by leadership. Without this endorsement, the chances for success diminish significantly.

There is no substitute for sustained effort.

Just like with the human body, where there is no panacea that will quickly eliminate the cholesterol that is clogging the proper flow of blood, the same is true for the corporation and the data cholesterol that is inhibiting the flow of information and keeping the corporation from functioning properly and efficiently. It took years to get here, and it will take years to effectively solve the problem. There’s no need for a big bang. Most organizations that have been successful report a multi-year journey that is persistent and an evergreen part of any information management program.

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