Tuesday, January 17, 2006

What is Record Management in 2006?

One thing is clear is that when we talk about records management, our clients do not always think of the same things we do. Over the past year I have had many conversations with clients, vendors and practitioners about the confusion that is:

  • Compliancy
  • Records Management
  • Governance
  • Retention/Archiving

Here we have overlapping activities and viewpoints that often serve more to confuse than clarify, and whilst I have no intention of offering my own definitions of these areas, I do intend to offer the following.

Maybe something new is emerging and we just don't realise it!

A recent email exchange with David Gillespie (CTO at 80:20) prompted me to consider this, it is his assertion that a new breed of RM professional emerging. If he is right, and I think he is, then there is a new breed of RM method and practice emerging too.

Records Management professionals as exemplified by ARMA here in the US are an easy target, often depicted as dusty filing clerks, hidden away in the basement. Yet there is a great deal of theory and method that such professionals bring that we are losing.

One of my biggest concerns with contemporary RM practices is that there is a tendency to simply archive/store everything for long periods, based on the theory that storage is cheap.
But that is not what managing the lifecycle of content is about, and is often quite contrary to the rules and regulations surrounding records retention.

There definately appears to be a new activity surrounding the effective rention of electronic business records emerging. Yet it currently has little profile or structure to it, ideally professional organisations such as ARMA or AIIM would be able to support and help codify these practices (and in fairness they are trying). But there also appears to be a determination in the market not to embrace existing records management methodologies, but to view these as outmoded and of little use in a digital world.

And though in my heart I want to thoroughly disagree with this position, I recognise that clearly something is not adding up and that change is required. With the sheer volume of information now being generated, rightly or wrongly people have assumed that RM practices that emerged from paper based activities are no longer effective. At the very least the world of records management is in need of an extreme makeover - as currently vendors and consultants alike are avoiding RM terminology for fear of alienating their clients.

Time will tell what fully emerges, but there is a need for more professional information management professionals, there is a severe shortage at present - and though more will move to this space over the coming years, the worst scenario is that they learn by trial and error, rather than embrace established methods in not just retention scheduling and records management but also in taxonomy building, information architecture etc, otherwise we will end up with an even bigger mess than we currently have.

No comments: