Manually Capturing Records in an ERM System

By Carl Weise posted 09-24-2010 16:01


A central theme in managing electronic records is having users capture, and store, their records in an ERM repository.  This is an important consideration and one that can be successful.

We often read that users will not do this activity, especially because there is no benefit in it for them.  I totally disagree with this train of thought.  How soon we forget, as users who create and receive records, the frustration we have experienced and the waste of time, looking for electronic records that we had previously saved to our C: drives, shared drives and, perhaps, our removable drives.  Over a period of time, trying to think what we called the file, when we saved it and in what subdirectory we put it, becomes very aggravating.

I have also observed situations where the boss or a co-worker is standing over a person’s desk demanding that file immediately.  Those situations are not pleasant.

I think in terms of being proactive in storing our content, as opposed to being reactive.  A lesson we learn in managing email inboxes is to do something with emails immediately, including deleting it, providing a quick response, delegating it to another person, if appropriate, or moving it into a pending folder.  In the very same way, with our word documents, spreadsheets, or whatever, we should take the appropriate action initially, instead of just dumping it onto one of our many storage drives.

We are not trying to make all users records management professionals.  What is required is that all users gain a broader perspective of their office work to the level that they realize that some information are important assets of the organization and that there are different values for the content that they create or receive.  These records should be captured in their appropriate categories.  Some information that has no value to the user and the organization should be simply deleted.

An aid to users in this effort is identifying and documenting the different groups of records, and, perhaps, non-records, that they deal with.  This will reduce the anguish of having to think, each time, is this content a record or is it not a record.  Over time, users will gain experience that will ease their burden.  Users’ training and feedback are very important to improve effective in this task of retaining important business records.

As we know, even non-records need to managed and, in particular, should be got rid of in a systematic manner as quickly as possible.  But even with transitory, or non-record, information that is created in email systems, instant messaging, and a myriad of social networking applications, we can apply structure.  In teaching the impact of ERM/ECM systems on organizations’ infrastructure, I found it interesting that many organizations have a number of computing environments with one of them often called the “sandbox” environment.  Perhaps, with non-records, we could identify a number of “sandbox” categories of content.  An important consideration is that if any of this information attains the value of records, they should then be captured as a records category.  The remaining content should be removed after a short, assigned period of time.

A critical success factor in having users capture their records is to reduce the alternatives.  As I talk to students, I find that more and more organizations are not making the personal C: drives available to staff to store their files.  Another very important technical feature is to have tight integration between the many office applications and the ERM system.  Through configuration, when users click on the normal “save” button, instead of being shown the various drives available to store their content, they are presented with a pop-up window that shows metadata fields that are filled in by the computer application.  These fields can then be changed by the users if appropriate.  The users then click on the OK, or SAVE, button to capture the record into the ERM repository.

We have been given wonderful computer capabilities in the different ERM solutions.  By getting the users to be proactive in the handling of their content, by providing the users with structure, using a classification scheme and retention schedules, and controlled vocabularies, critical business information can be properly managed and later retrieved, and office work for the users can become more pleasant.

Tell us about your success in getting users to capture their records into an ERM repository.

What obstacles have you encountered in getting user buy in?

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