Thursday, January 19, 2006

Records Management 2006 - Part 3

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.


James McGovern said...

If enterprises don't even understand the basics of records management, could this be solved by having all the vendors in this space develop a publicly available RM Reference Architecture?

Why haven't the vendors already started creating one...

alan pelz-sharpe said...

I think an RM reference architecture would be a good thing. But at the end of the day I think its about being realistic as to what you can effectively manage and what you cannot. So a reference architecture around retention for example would be a very good starting point.

Why haven't they done it, good question - I guess because most vendors who matter (the really big ones), have only recently grasped the sheer complexity of managing of unstructured data) - the specialists , RM-DM-ECM etc, don't have the market clout to do so, and their past efforts DMA/WFMC at common standards have fallen well short.

Good point though, and something worth thinking through further.


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ECMPM said...

The issue with RM is that vendors have pushed RM as a tool where a successful RM requires it to be a part of business process. Where IT would love to have a tool, business would like to solve the business needs. RM as a tool has not only comes with huge implementation challenges but does not address the on going ownership and accountability issues. RM should be part of a process rather than a stand alone task for the people of the organization. As we see more business process related initiative in the organizations, RM functionality will be slowly wrapped in the process steps. This we will find more RM functionality being addressed by BPM vendors - independent of tools which actually applies retention and disposal to the content. So business which has RM implementations, would slowly align with the business processes.