Where Should the Records and Information Management Function Live in Your Organization?

By Greg Clark posted 06-24-2010 00:41


I am often asked where I think the Records and Information Management function should exist within a company's org chart.  This question usually comes up in the context of a frustrated practitioner who is having a difficult time getting traction for their ECM program or from business users how are frustrated at being told by IT, RM or someone else that they need to manage their information in a certain way that may not be immediately intuitive to them, or does not support their business processes.

The first question to ask is whether it really matters. Shouldn't a first class Records and Information Management (IM) program succeed by virtue of its own momentum and the value it creates irrespective of what the boxes on the org chart say?  In a perfect world that would be true, but unfortunately we don't live in a perfect world (if you need proof see my earlier post about the Calgary Flames missing the playoffs).

So where should the Records and Information Management function live?  Not in IT, at least not in most cases. 

Notwithstanding the fact that the "I" in "IT" stands for "Information", the mandate of most IT organizations is to keep servers running and to manage vendor relationships.  I know that many, if not most IT professionals are truly dedicated to helping their customers manage their business more efficiently, but at the end of the day the great majority of IT organizations are not set up to accommodate the challenges of managing information well.

And these challenges are many.  Perhaps the most important comes from the fact that Information Management implementations do not have a natural beginning, middle and end. Information Management is an ongoing process that evolves and changes over time to support changing business requirements and the needs of their user community.  Information Management is not a project and it certainly is not a technology deployment.

IT groups on the other hand generally operate a project management office tasked with standing up servers, upgrading software and rolling out new technologies. Each of these tasks fit well with a traditional "waterfall" project management methodology that expects right and wrong answers along the way. Information Management on the other hand is more art than science. Yes, it is critical that IM projects are managed properly and that appropriate controls are in place to ensure the implementation stays on track, but the key aspects of IM projects are people and process rather than technology. Change management is critically important and, let's face it, most IT organizations are not adept at the people side of change.

That leaves the question of where the Records and IM function should live within your organization.  In my experience there are three good answers depending on the makeup and business challenges of your organization. 

  1. If you are in a heavily regulated industry or are likely to face more than your fair share of lawsuits you likely want to align your IM program closely with your corporate legal group, reporting in to chief legal counsel. 
  2. If your objectives are to enhance operational efficiency or improve the bottom line of your business by managing your information better, align your IM program with an operational support area or even a strategic marketing or R&D group. 
  3. Finally, if you are in a situation where the only logical spot is within IT, try to ensure that you carve out the IM function from the other core teams in the IT group.  One of my clients appointed a Director of  Information Management a s a direct report of the CIO, which made her a peer of the more traditional IT roles of Infrastructure and Application support and gave her a seat at the table to advocate for IM.

In the end, when push comes to shove the core mandate of each part of your organization tends to prevail.  In the case of IT, generally speaking their mandate is to keep the servers running and as a result the processes and political power tends to support this objective. Many IT groups can walk and chew gum at the same time but if they start to stumble they'll spit out the gum before they fall over. Placing IM in a part of your organization where it can fulfil its mandate is one of the first steps on the road to success.

Cross-posted to the C3 Associates ECM blog.

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