Are You A Records Manager Or Information Governance Officer

By Jeff Lewis posted 07-13-2012 11:39


With electronic records being everywhere, it is hard to pinpoint who exactly is the records manager.  I'd like to propose that it is more important that we move away from the title of records manager and instead use the term information (if you are sentimental you can say "records") governance officer (I would say governor, but that sounds too much like an elected office). 

This thought was spurred on by the following statement in the ERM Wiki

With the advent of personal computers and the Internet, the ability to create and disseminate information was decentralized. The result? The records management function was also decentralized. In other words, every employee today is a records manager - like it or not. But, asking them to be a records manager without showing them how to be a records manager is doomed to fail. So, in that context, the question takes us to a useful place - if we don't show them how to do it, we can no more allow or trust employees to make retention decisions that we can allow them to run a piece of equipment or negotiate a deal. The great news is that with newer technologies that support role-based retention categories, automatic classification, and so on, their job is getting easier.

My job isn't so much to be a records manager, but to help the staff in my organization to manage their own records.  How I help the staff at the FDA to manage records is through compliance, policy development, communication and training.  This unfortunately makes the assumption that they care about records management.  The reality is they care about the benefits of records management, so in the end they may take short cuts, procrastinate on managing records or pass it off to someone who hasn't received training from the Records Management Department.

My organization, has one benefit of records management they care about and that is moving their records to the new White Oak Campus.  Some records will need to be at offsite storage, so a lot of the training right now is helping them to know what to take, what to send to storage and what to dispose of.  Everyone has tunnel vision and is blinded to the other benefits and efficiencies of effective records management.  After the move to White Oak priority #1 will be helping them to see and understand the other benefits of records management.

I love this explanation of information governance from RSD.  Parts in bold have been added for emphasis by me:

most people will define information governance as the means to help organizations manage corporate risk and improve operational efficiency as they work to achieve compliance with regulations and laws governing enterprise information. Sounds very much like records management, right?

Information governance goes beyond the existing “state-of-the-art” of records management applications. Here is how I separate the two. In the emerging information governance market, managing the lifecycle of the content not only covers the retention and disposition of the record but the complete management of the metadata of the record, tiering of content across storage platforms, security classification of the content during its lifecycle, data privacy attributes of the record during its lifecycle, and finally digital rights of the content when it goes outside the firewall (because that never happens).  Essentially, information governance programs are a superset of records management programs and feature similar methodologies and processes.

Information governance is also more of an accountability program to enforce desirable behavior in the creation, use, archiving, and deletion of corporate information. It includes the lifecycle management practices to address eDiscovery readiness, information risk management, business information lifecycle management, and federated archiving. Information governance clearly defines the roles and responsibilities with detailed metrics and auditing. It requires a cross functional committee involving legal, compliance, business, and IT.

Unlike current records management solutions, information governance enables central management of retention policy and metadata, while supporting the enforcement of information governance policies across business functions, locations, and information silos. Information silos include both structured (databases and data warehouses) and non-structured repositories (enterprise content management, document management, paper records etc).



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