The Changing Role of Records Managers

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Records Management

The Changing Role of Records Managers

Records managers have had their ups and downs. For some inexplicable reason, years ago the records management function was relegated to the bottom of the totem pole when prioritizing business issues. I have never been able to figure that out, as the role of the records manager within the organization is critical.

Hopefully, this attitude has changed. New compliance regulations, an increased global business model, the rise of privacy protection, information governance across environments, cybercrime, and social media have all left their impact on the part the records manager must now play. And that probably isn’t a complete laundry list.

Even when evaluating older enterprise applications, decisions to retire them raise content preservation concerns. As organizations begin infrastructure renewal projects, particularly as new software as a service (SaaS) and cloud-based applications become viable alternatives to big footprint legacy systems, then IT, legal, and records professionals must assess the risk of losing information in those older systems. Decisions to maintain older systems in read-only mode, to migrate data into newer systems or to dispose of older systems all together must be made in accordance with business, legal, and compliance needs. This is not a one-off decision and requires the participation of a variety of functional groups within the enterprise.

Confidence in records management, eDiscovery, security, privacy, and compliance remains low as organizations realize that vocabulary and assumptions based on paper fail to scale. New forms of information must be recognized as records, and lifecycle management applied from capture through to archive.

On the one hand, records managers’ hands are tied with technical challenges and don’t have the authority to make strategic decisions. On the other, they are now required to develop new lifecycle roadmaps to include on-premises, cloud, and mobile. For many, this is breaking new ground and they seem to be faced with a sink or swim organizational approach.

As you expand your presence in social networks, you should ensure that the way you capture social media records is manageable and effective. Just like traditional records, they need to be indexed and archived within context, to make searching for them easy. Applying metadata to tag content serves this purpose.

Regardless of industry or organization, the manual application of metadata is time-consuming and unproductive. Recently, software solutions that will apply metadata and process social communications have come on the market, but they focus on particular social sites and are not flexible enough to encompass more than one. This places organizations in a predicament, as it is just not feasible to purchase and use a plethora of applications to identify records from social communications. The other issue with social media is that organizations are still looking at these communications as wild animals, and are in a quandary about whether to keep or delete all communications. Neither option is sound.

Email and collaboration fall along those same lines. Email is typically administered but not necessarily considered as part of the records management process, such as what is the contextual meaning within an email, what is contained in the attachment. The same applies to collaboration. Few organizations track what information is being shared with whom, both internally and externally. Both lapses can open a Pandora’s box of problems – issues which are difficult and sometimes impossible to recover from. The Target breach can be traced back to a partner of a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) company, working with Target at one of its locations. As we saw, the repercussions were devastating.

Across all industries, many on-premises applications, such as enterprise content management (ECM), are at the end of their lifecycle. Records management applications are no different. Most organizations have not kept pace nor transitioned to the cloud, rather choosing to force fit functionality into the cloud model just to stay in the game. Eventually they will be usurped by those vendors that can provide ‘cloud-ready’ applications with functionality that far surpasses the traditional on-premises applications.

The preservation of older records should be a concern and evaluated for accuracy. One can’t assume that for years the records management function has been chugging along so requires no changes. Organizations face continual change from a variety of external and internal factors and, if ignored, the level of organizational risk increases considerably. What was once declared a record may not necessarily be valid any longer and new information should be included in the records management process.

Finally, a problem that will continue to grow is institutional memory, risking relegation to the digital dark ages sooner rather than later. Organizations are already discovering that digital information from the latter part of the 20th century is unreadable or inaccessible due to hardware obsolescence, disk or tape decay, and software format loss. Even large, stable vendors such as Microsoft appear to have neglected to preserve source code for file formats and specifications for older products like PowerPoint 4.0.

I have always felt compassion for records managers, who seem to get a raw deal. More so now as they are dealing with challenges they have never before had to face. Keeping up with the growing influx of content, types of content, and diverse environments is going to require a change in executive mentality, increased organizational support, and cooperation between multiple functional groups. A tall order to be sure.

We invite you to read a few of our case studies on how we helped clients solve their particular challenge in records management‘Eliminating End User Tagging in Records Management’‘Automating Content Lifecycle Management’‘ Content Optimization – Reducing Risk, and Ensuring Compliance and Information Governance’’Increasing Efficiency and Doing More with Less’. We would be happy to share with you how we can solve your challenges, so please feel free to get in touch.

Our webinars also address the topics explored in our blogs. Access all our webinar recordings and presentation slides at any time, from our website, in the Recorded Webinars area, via the Resources tab.

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