I was at an ARMA lecture series this week in which the topic of discussion was the lifecycle management of records – was it truly a lifecycle or is it more of a continuum and how do you present that to users.
I personally found that the discussion was completely off the mark. Who cares what you call it – the point is that information (records) is part of a process and the value of the information is based on the state of the process within which it is being created or used. This means to me that Records Management isn’t so much responsible for the end product (eg: a record) but the integrity of the processes used to manage the record through all its states – and that can’t be done effectively at the end of the process when the user is finished with the document.
Records Management discussions have to evolve into discussions of how and where records management can feed into the organizations business model. Business models are changing as new technology services appear. The skill sets of Records Managers are well placed to help guide an organization through those changes, but records management services will have to expand into three areas:
1. Business advisory services whereby Records Managers can provide advice on how to deliver on the principles of accountability and transparency that so many companies bandy about. This will require records managers to be able to draw a correlation between the companies business model/accountability framework and the value of recordkeeping practices for the senior management team. They will need to be able to explain how these practices can feed a company’s objectives for agility and innovation, while minimizing risk …. and this can’t be done by talking about the relevancy of the records lifecycle.
2. Business Analysis Services – Records Management resources must also become part of the application development team to:
- Educate users about information characteristics (security, access, which information item produced through the process is important, for how long, etc.) when they have a stake in the outcome.
- Guide business users through the identification of requirements to ensure that record keeping practices are incorporated as seamlessly as possible into the tool being developed – and that the end-user is the one asking for it.
- Provide the record keeping metadata standards to be captured within the business tool and through the business processes.
- Educate IT resources in general about the principles of recordkeeping – these aren’t separate requirements, they are foundational requirements to any business application.
3. Information Architecture – Records managers have a lot of experience in developing taxonomies, classifying information and developing synonym trees. This experience, coupled with training in data management, concepts of search, and their enterprise perspective would make them an invaluable member of the Information Architecture team.
To realize this new service model will require changing the perceptions of the business and IT teams, AND changing the culture of the records management team.