RIM to drive up the value of Time Capsules?

By Julie Colgan posted 11-12-2010 19:07


Earlier this week I attended the 55th Annual ARMA Conference and Expo, and as always happens, I find myself inspired by what I saw, heard and learned.  Interestingly however, and perhaps due to my earlier post about my anthropological academic background, I found my mind wandering a bit … and perhaps a bit subversively.  Let me explain. 

For as much as good RIM is about retaining information to meet compliance obligations, to facilitate productivity and to generate competitive advantage, it’s also about disposing of records, non-records and other transitory bits and bytes in a timely manner to reduce risk, free up storage space and keep people from having to trip over it on their search for information of value. 

It’s the latter bit that gave me pause. 

In traditional RIM theory, the four pillars of value that information is considered against to determine record status are: legal, financial, operational and historical.  I’m worried that perhaps we aren’t spending enough time and effort considering historical value as we develop retention schedules and make disposition decisions.

In today’s litigious and highly competitive society there is an understandable focus on disposing of as much information as possible to reduce risk exposure and contain costs.  I understand that, but are we also spending enough time considering what historical significance there might be in the information we’re disposing of?

I know some organizations have corporate memory programs that incorporate capturing items of historical value such as significant contracts, photos from corporate picnics and other memorabilia.  But how many organizations really make those efforts?  And in a particularly difficult economy, I can imagine that those types of programs are near or at the top of the list for funding cuts.

If we as a profession are ultimately successful in implementing RIM programs that identify the information our organizations create and receive, and devise quality processes to dispose of information as soon as it has met its legal, fiscal and/or operational value but neglect to spend time and effort to preserve both records and non-records that may hold historical value to the organization itself or the community it operates in, are we in the end threatening future generations' ability to really understand our organizations?

Does that matter?

Do we really want to leave it to chance that a time capsule project will capture a marketing campaign, product packaging, or a memo from a CEO to his/her employees congratulating them on a job well-done (which may or may not be a corporate record and may or may not be retained for any significant period of time)?  Are we willing to forego our ability to tell our stories in our own words and leave it to chance that someone else will do it for us?  Are we willing to run the risk that we’ll simply fade from history altogether and have no residue of our hard work and impact on our communities?

What do you think?  Should we spend more effort on helping our organizations capture records and non-records that contribute to our history, or is that simply a nice-to-have or a waste of time entirely?  Is the potential of keeping non-records simply for historical purposes subversive to the intent of a quality RIM program in today's world?

I, for one, intend to return to my office Monday morning and strike up a conversation with my organization’s leadership about our efforts (or lack thereof) to capture at least some amount of material that will help tell our story to the generations to come.  I’d love to hear your thoughts …

#RIM #recordvalue #corporatehistory #disposition #Records-Management #ElectronicRecordsManagement