Federated Records Management: More than Just a Technology

By James Watson posted 09-21-2010 11:23


Many of our clients are looking closely at the concept of federated records management. The fundamental principal of federated RM is that records are managed “in-place.” Essentially, organizations with a multitude of different record repositories cannot migrate content into a single “uber” repository; instead, they aggregate meta-data and maintain a collection of pointers back to the native content.

And while the technologies capable of addressing federated RM are just beginning to emerge and mature, it is absolutely critical that organizations begin to address their procedural and governance capabilities as well. In fact, I suspect that the process and governance elements are likely to take just as long to mature as the technology.

Consider the process questions. How will indexing standards be communicated to user constituents? How will electronic records be destroyed? At what frequency will subordinate repositories be pooled for changes to status? How will activities be logged? Etc., etc.

Also consider the corresponding governance questions: Who will define meta-data standards? Who has authority to release a legal hold? Who authorizes the destruction of content?

And these are just some of the basic questions. At Doculabs, we’ve developed extensive lists of questions our clients must address prior to implementing a records management system, even more exhaustive when a collection of record systems are under consideration and must be kept in synch. Now consider that many of our clients, particularly those interested in pursuing a federated approach, have ten-plus primary business units, each with its own functional responsibilities for disciplines such as legal, compliance, IT, risk, etc.

As you’d expect, the effort required to address the process and governance questions can take 6 to 12 months to complete (assuming there isn’t a re-organization during that time). So, for those of you who are considering a federated approach to records management – but are skeptical about the maturity of the technology – please, please don’t sit back and “watch the market.” Launch your federated records management program today by addressing the process and governance issues. By the time you’re near completion, the technology landscape will be dramatically more mature, and you will be ready to implement effectively.

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