Often we forget that markets and commerce are driven not by vendors but by those who buy their products. Those who produce products have to read as best they can the needs and desires of the market, but all too often even a slight miscalulcation can be very costly. Electronic Records Management (ERM) has been an example of this and a learning curve for all of us in this industy. What seemed like common sense post dot.bomb, Enron and WorldCom now turns out to have been only partially correct. The common sense conclusion at the time was that Records Management was desparately required, and that people would now be rushing out to acquire ERM systems and related professionals to get themselves in order, and protect themselves against regulations such as SOX.
But that only happened in small measure, and a few years on we are all scratching our heads and wondering how we got it wrong, and why.
What we got right:
- There is a need to manage business records now more than ever before
- Electronic records are growing out of control
- Enterprises are facing ever more complex legal threats, yet often remain unable to defend themselves due to poor or non-existant RM practices
- Regulations are growing ever more fierce in demanding that enteprises manage their records in an orderly and compliant fashion
What we got wrong:
- The scale of the task ahead is so vast that most prefer to bury their heads in the sand and pretend their is no problem
- The RM professional sector failed to convince anyone that their skills had kept up to pace with technology and electronic data requirements
- Most firms don't understand even the most basic RM and Compliancy principals
- The skills shortage has never been addressed, and trained compliancy and ERM professionals remain thin on the ground
But the biggest thing of all that we failed to predict, was the wholesale rejection of RM as a skillset to resolve many regualtory issues. To the extent that today, vendors and salesforces are now changing product and service names away from RM terminology, toward more generic and IT oriented 'retention & governance' terminology.
It's an understandable but worrying trend - on the one hand it leads enterprises to finally start doing something to manage records. But in many cases end's up as a cludge, whereby records do not get managed. They are simply 'retained indefinately'. To repeat, RM is as much about Disposal as it is about Retention. RM is ultimately about managing the lifecycle of content, from creation through to death.