It's an interesting time to be a records manager. Many of my blogging colleagues have noted the increased emphasis on information governance, and the prospect of increased regulation in the financial sector was a frequent theme at the AIIM 2010 conference last week.
At the same time, a number of vendors, both new and "legacy", showed up at the conference with social media offerings. Some of these were positioned as competitors to SharePoint; others targeted the interest in Facebook and other social media services but with the promise of ensuring compliance with the aforementioned requirements.
And yet it was clear in my discussions on breaks and at networking events that for many organizations, the desire remains to use Facebook, Twitter, and other commercial social media tools. There are two main reasons for this. First, the promise of "free as in beer" tools is a huge factor. Most of the major social media tools are free, or at such low cost compared to more traditional content management and collaboration tools that they might as well be. The economy appears to be turning around, but purse strings haven't loosened up completely just yet.
The other reason is that these tools are where the users are. In other words, it's nice to think about having an inside-the-firewall Twitter, but that ain't Twitter. This is especially important where the tool will be used to interact with external constituencies, such as government Facebook fan pages or broker-dealers using Twitter or LinkedIn.
I draw a number of conclusions from this. Organizations are already using these tools. Like email, many organizations have policies in place to address their usage; also like email, many of these policies focus primarily if not exclusively on acceptable and/or effective usage of the tools - for example, they provide guidance on user names and pictures, proscriptions against offensive posts, or how to respond to comments.
But there is very little discussion of how to deal with the recordkeeping and compliance issues raised. Steve Bailey wrote a book called "Managing the Crowd: Rethinking Records Management for the Web 2.0 World" a couple of years ago where he raised some of those issues, but he readily acknowledged that he didn't have all the answers. James Lappin, another UK-based records management consultant, also blogs on these issues. And there are a few others of us out here thinking about how to apply 60+ years of records management strategies and techniques to these tools - but we don't have all the answers yet either.
So this is my starting point for what I hope to focus on in my blog posts. Records management is records management. Records are determined by their content and value to the organization, not by their format or where the information is physically stored. But the tactics will be different for these tools for a number of reasons that I will explore over the coming weeks. We have tactics for some tools and some use cases; others will need to be developed to address some of the unique characteristics of social media. And of course some will come from the application of judicial rulings and case law. What I do know is that records managers need to learn the tools and start thinking about how to manage them now, as they are being introduced, rather than ignoring them as we did with email.
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