The Future of Records and Information Management Is Today

By Jeff Lewis posted 04-25-2014 10:35


One of the crucial tasks of records managers is to get the attention of those in the C-suite.  The trouble with that is that the C-suite doesn’t care about records.  To be honest, I don’t care about records either.  When we step back from our worldview and get a bigger picture of the world of information, a record is equivalent to data, it’s just zeroes and ones that we have trained our systems and staffs to treat a certain way.

If we only concern ourselves with what is declared as a record we miss out on the opportunities to leverage the value of information.  If a record is just data, that is zeroes and ones that is read by software a certain way, or interpreted by humans as different than a nonrecord, then we must next ask ourselves the question of what is information and how does a record have informational value. 

Information, in its most basic sense, is that which informs.  Data does not information, but data represented, either as a physical document or electronic document does.  If I have two copies of the exact same document, they both contain the same information, but depending on my policy one could be a record and one could be a non-record.  That document is ultimately information and in an instance of e-discovery it could be a smoking gun costing my company millions.  Therefore, I need to have policies for both the record and non-record so that they are both dispositioned properly.

Let’s continue to look at our twin documents; e-discovery is one instance when the value is on a sliding scale.  Another important factor to consider as well is the data that we associate with it, in other words the metadata.  Time is money and with the proper metadata and management of that information (i.e. document) we can increase the findability and accessibility of that piece of information so that time and money is not wasted trying to find that crucial piece of information when it is needed. 

Before I move on I think it is important to recap:

Data: ones and zeroes that are the underlying foundation for information.  Information without representation in a human readable or machine readable format

Information: That which informs.  This can be anything from a database to an e-mail to a microfiche

Record / Nonrecord: A way that we categorize information and content.  This is a subset of content management which I will discuss in a future blog post. 

Metadata: Data about data. How is this data to be read, where should it be preserved, who should have access, etc.

One last category to look at is knowledge.  Knowledge is information that we know and hopefully that information is data.  If that knowledge is data, in a format that is accessible to others, it is explicit.  If knowledge is not data it is tacit, therefore it is verbally communicated from one person to another, but never formalized or systemized to get the maximum value out of that information across an organization.  Knowledge management is all about knowing what information is business intelligence so that it can be spread to the appropriate parties ensuring everyone is on the same page and in compliance.  This is key to ensuring an organization is a cohesive unit that works smarter instead of harder. 

First of all, if you have read this far, thank you.  Secondly, I think it is important to consider if this is a discussion worth having and why. or if it all is just a matter of semantics.  There are at least three groups of people that could potentially be reading this 1)Records Managers (this is probably all semantics to you), 2)Records and Information Managers (discussion worthy topic) and 3)Information Governance Practitioners (discussion worthy topic).  As I said at the top, the broader audience does not care about records, which is why we must see the scope of records as much larger than just creation, use, retention and disposition, especially with how cloud, big data and social are changing the landscape.  

Those working in RIM and IG must be dynamic because the field is dynamic.  Most people who work with big data might not care about records, but the unstructured data they are doing analysis on comes from records and needs to be governed accordingly.  Applying the Generally Acceptable Recordkeeping Principles of availability, compliance and protection is becoming more and more complicated with BYOD being more prevalent in the enterprise.  Cloud and social is completely turning the records lifecycle on its head.  

We can’t stick our heads in the sand and think that these things are the future of the enterprise.  This is the present state of the enterprise and something that we need to be equipping ourselves to tackle right now or else our organization will pay the price, whether it be through lack of efficiency or at the time of litigation.

I don’t like to split hairs in terms of terminology, but I think it is important to understand where RIM and IG fit and how our world will be converging more and more with IT, marketing and other groups in the organization or else we will find ourselves on the precipice of extinction.  How do we avoid extinction, stay tuned as these are topics that I plan to tackle in future blog posts.

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