A Challenge to Records and Information Managers

By Jeffrey Lewis posted 06-13-2013 12:34


Every day we have two choices 1)Take a risk or 2)Play it safe.  The same is true with records and information management.  Too often the focus is placed on “records” and not “information.”  In the past no one would fault a RIM staff for managing the risk they know.  With the consumerization of IT and many end users gaining greater and greater technological proficiency there are more information related risks in the work place then our predecessors could have imagined.  I'd argue that today the greater concern is the risk we don't know.  Quarterly we should make it our task to get out in front of the changes on the horizon and start making preparation for disruption in the information landscape.

The choice that we must make as RIM professionals is are we going to be tactical or strategic?  Don’t get me wrong, we can be a hybrid and wear the role of someone who is both tactical and strategic, but we have to be moving in a certain direction and not just neutral.  Picture a spectrum and on the tactical end is someone who puts out the fires while ensuring records and information are governed, made available and secure, and on the other is someone who is strategic with increased efficiency by having a RIM program that is agile, innovative and makes an impact.  To get a picture of what I am talking about please refer to the AIIM webinar, “Think Big, Start Small, and Scale Fast: 3 Steps to Unleashing the Power of your Information”

No silver bullet exists for getting from one of end of the spectrum to others, but there are steps that can be taken to get us closer:

  • Step one is to get out of the file room and stop thinking about RIM the same we always have.  In the file room our main allies were the chief compliance officer, chief operating officer and those in IT (whether CIO or CTO depending on org) who assisted in electronic records management.  Once we leave the file room we will interact with people who want to use information in new and exciting ways such as the chief marketing officer and chief data officer who may want to reopen closed records and datasets that were already on their way to be dispositioned and they may also have new formats and media in which they will gather information .


  • Step two is once you leave the file room talk to your end-users and find out the requirements for the technologies out there that they want to use, whether it is BYOD, wiki’s, collaborative file sharing, etc.  When gathering requirements always remember to listen more then you talk.  Ask open-ended questions that force those on the other end to be thoughtful and introspective.  Why will new technologies make them more efficient, how will they use it and what do they like about it?  Are there any other questions you can to think to ask?


  • Step three, is to remember that within every group there is always the person(s) who is more concerned with shooting first and asking questions later. i.e. there are some in your organization who will aim for efficiency first and compliance later. To believe that all people will confirm what the policy is before trying to leverage information for maximum benefit with new technology is naivety. 


  • Step four, don’t be afraid to be wrong.  View every risk as a chance to either succeed or to learn, but there is no failure. 


  • Step five, never stop growing professionally.  Become a Certified Information Professional to ensure your skills are current and competitive.  Network with other information professionals you can know what hurdles they are facing and how they are overcoming them.

Working in information management presents an opportunity to run with the bulls.  To lower risks of indictment and ensure that our organizations are getting the most value out of IT we must not play it safe.  Consumerization if IT is making workers more efficient and thus causing them to create more information with means such as collaborative tools, social media, instant messaging, BYOD, etc. that we need to make sure we are thinking about our slice of the pie as more than just records or we may just lose our seat at the table.  Business wants these tools and sees the importance of them so it is imperative that we bridge the gap between business and IT to ensure that information management practices are compliant, protective, transparent, accountable and characterized by integrity and availability. 

#disruptivetechnology #InformationGovernance #CIP #CertifiedInformationProfessional #information governance #Records-Management #ElectronicRecordsManagement
1 comment


You make excellent points and I thank you for your insight! I would encourage all of my counterparts in the Records and Information Management space to heed your advice. Allow me to add the following points:
• Make your Records program about customer service first and foremost. Records Management is and always will be a support function so staff must be trained on proper etiquette and client facing interaction
• Become knowledgeable of the myriad of Records and Information based standards that exist such as: ISO 15489-1 and the MOREQ standards for electronic records
• Become a champion of your organization’s Document Retention policy and be ready to train end users on proper compliance
• Become not simply Records Managers but Content Managers. Know how the Big Data revolution will impact the profession going forward
To all of the young people (of which I still consider myself), you would be well advised to consider a career in RIM. There is room for you in this profession. Solving the issues related to the massive data spiral and governance challenges to name a few, will take every available mind. No longer is it necessary to “fall into” Records but rather a planned approach can be employed. Institutions of higher education recognize that RIM “has legs” and are adjusting their course offerings to reflect this (shameless plug: my own alma mater of Columbia University has a phenomenal M.S. in Information and Knowledge Strategy).
While business faces complex challenges, we are in a better position now than ever before to meet those challenges head on.
Alexander Campbell, M.S., ERMp
Records Manager
Cohen & Gresser, LLP