Records Management and the One Measurement That Really Matters

By Don Lueders, CRM, CDIA posted 07-13-2013 17:35


Please don't call me a Records Keeper.  I hate that title.  Hate it, hate it, hate it.  You can train a monkey to be a Records Keeper.  In fact, if your consultant identifies himself as a Records Keeper, fire him and hire a monkey.  The monkey will work for bananas and they're hilarious to have around the office.  Trust me on this one.  

I am a Records Manager.  I do what Records Managers have done for hundreds of years: I support the management of information throughout its lifecycle.  That means I’m there when a piece of information is created; I’m there when it’s distributed and used; I’m there when it’s stored; and I’m there when it is destroyed.  That’s records management

Admittedly, things have gotten a great deal more complicated over the last quarter-century or so for those of us in my chosen profession.  Technology has been both a blessing and a curse.  It’s brought us explosive growth in the information we must manage, but it’s also made our role that much more critical to the success of those organizations we serve.

Nowhere is this truer than it is with respect to the defensible disposition of records.  It is our most fundamental responsibility as Records Managers and the most important service we provide.  It is the reason for all the effort we put into researching and documenting retention and disposition requirements.  It is the reason we fret over proper records classification and effective declaration strategies.  It is what Legal Counsel is expecting from us and what the IT Department is counting on us for.  For you Star Trek fans out there, defensible records disposition is the Prime Directive of our profession.  

Because of this, we are blessed (or possibly cursed) with the ability to easily determine how effectively we are doing our job: we can simply calculate how much content was defensibly destroyed at our organizations this year and compare it to how much was destroyed last year. 

But Don, information governance is an extremely complicated practice; is it really as simple as that?  Well, yes.  Practicing law is extremely difficult, but you wouldn’t hesitate to ask a lawyer how many cases she’s won in the last 12 months.  Nor would you be reluctant to ask a pitcher how many games he won last season.  Simply put, defensible disposition is our profession's win/loss record. 

So ask your Records Manager to provide you with that statistic, but please be fair.  A colleague once told me (and I really wish I could take credit for this, but I can’t), ‘Records deposition is like sex in high school, everybody talks about it, but nobody is actually doing it.’  It is very possible your organization destroyed very little or even no content over the last year.  The deluge of newly created information combined with a very litigious business climate has made everyone reluctant to destroy just about anything.  Even many Records Managers.  

Unfortunately, I see this far more than you might imagine, so be prepared to accept it.   But only accept it with the caveat that you will ask for the same statistic one year from now.  At that point, if you don’t see a marked increase in the volume of the content destroyed at your organization, it might be time to invest in a couple of crates of bananas. 

#ElectronicRecordsManagement #InformationGovernance #DefensibleDisposition #Records-Management


07-23-2013 14:11

Anyone with PB spread out globally and in the hands of numerous vendors will not know this number. Even their IT group does not know it. Contracts where storage is not a separate charge becomes blind to its space. No pain is felt until maybe the next contract negotiation. And that is only a maybe.
Not that no one cares but there is always a bigger savings number by moving to mid-range servers, Linux, etc. than deleting 100 TB. In fact be careful as the amount of work needed to delete those 100 TB can be painful in many systems.
I agree with Chris on accessing valuable information better than before. That is the real endgame. A soft measurement and subjective but if the employee is happier, take it as success. Their perception is their reality and your win or black eye.
Reviewing and destroying your information should be part of your holistic approach to managing cost. It also needs to be a fairly transparent event so it's easy to prove. I say prove not defensible (personal choice) as I don't have to defend a right I have.
I also think it's time to move away from constant justification to keep the program alive. It should be no more of a review than why we have quality control people, tax specialist, etc. It's either part of work or it's not. Including RIM in our business conduct manual has been a big plus. It becomes part of the right thing to do.

07-22-2013 12:45

Wonder if we can come up with a top ten list of how high school sex is like records disposition. I have another one to add the list, high school sex is like records disposition because of the problem of improper protection i.e. putting confidential records in a recycle bin instead of shredding).

07-22-2013 10:48

Another way that records disposition is like sex in high school is that some of those who are doing it, are doing it wrong and destroying records whose retention is not over.
In the comments, what you and Chris are discussing are two ROI's of informations governance
1)Increasing return on investment of information
2)Reducing risk of indictment caused by information
Defensible disposition reduces the risk of indictment, but if we are not creating a high return on investment on information then we are only doing half the job. It is similar to if a pitcher hold the opposing team to one or two runs, but the offense generates 0 zero runs then you still lose the game.

07-18-2013 09:45

Hey Don
You're right that from a purely RM perspective it's the best indicator. I also think that it's likely the easiest metric to define and monitor.

07-17-2013 18:44

Point taken, Chris, thanks.
I’ll concede that it isn’t really the ONLY measurement that matters. (I tend to resort to hyperbole more often than I probably should.) But I will continue to argue that it is the best indicator of how effectively those of us in the Records Management profession are doing our job. It's a concrete number and difficult to spin one way or the other. It’s also a lot easier to quantify than whether or not an organization is making better decisions or making their business processes more efficient.

07-16-2013 15:58

Defensible disposition, while a laudable goal and a key metric, is not the only metric that counts. Truly holistic Information Governance, of which Records Management is a part, is about getting business done. File plans, retention, and disposition are all necessary, but they’re capable of so much more than just reducing the amount of content that’s on hand, which may or may not expose organizations to risk.
As far as I’m concerned, we should also measure whether or not “info efficiency” has improved. Is information getting to those that need it better than in the past? Has the time taken to find relevant information decreased? Are better decisions being made? Have we made business processes more efficient by leveraging information?
To go back to the baseball analogy … a pitcher may have a great won/lost record, but if his team doesn’t make the playoffs, who cares?