Why the RMA is DEAD

By Mark Mandel posted 05-09-2012 12:52

  

The Records Management Application (RMA) as defined in days past is now an anachronism.  The traditional RMA was a back-end system that only managed records once they were declared.  This “view from the basement” approach is fraught with issues such as lack of funding, lack of resources, and low organizational priority.

I have been to dozens of seminars and conferences devoted to Records Management and they consistently refer to the RMA as if it is a stand-alone system out of context from the mainline business of an organization.  In today’s world, driven by issues such as eDiscovery, audit readiness and compliance, this is no longer the case.

The industry has transformed from Records Management to Information Governance.  Content must be governed from the time it is created, captured or ingested.  ALL content must be governed, not just declared records.  Transitory records must be explicitly classified so that they can be destroyed according to policy.

This new paradigm, called Content Lifecycle Management, addresses building Information Governance into all mainline business processes.  Enterprise Content Management suites now include Records Management as a subset of functionality so that it is built into the DNA of business transactions in a way that is transparent to end users.  For example, a workflow process supporting a contracts management effort automatically saves all documents into the ECM system, including metadata that is part of the workflow process.  Saved documents are classified automatically according to document type against the retention schedule, using this metadata.  No individual has to “declare” a record; it is done as a function of the business process.

The benefit to the organization is that they now have a full audit trail of each business transaction that can be used for legal discovery, litigation holds, audits, and more.  Transitory documents and email are destroyed according to published policy and therefore the organization benefits from lower storage and discovery costs.  Potentially HUGE cost savings are realized through lower discovery costs, lower sanctions and fines, and via the ramifications of NOT failing audits due to lack of documentation.

Auto Classification and eDiscovery tools are now included in some ECM suites, so organizations can now deploy tightly integrated solutions that encompass the majority of Information Governance requirements.  Business Process Management tools orchestrate business processes to marry business transactions with unstructured content that bridges information silos that include ERP systems such as SAP, custom database applications, email, collaboration tools, mobile and social media.

BPM is a mainline technology that is funded at the highest levels in an organization to improve productivity and lower transaction costs that are essential to most organizations.  Deploying BPM as part of an ECM suite that includes this complete audit trail of transactions and records is now the state of the art in our industry.  RM is essential to this approach, but it is an integrated component, not a stand-alone system.

Yes, the traditional back-end RMA is DEAD.

 



#ContentLifecycleManagement #audit #ElectronicRecordsManagement #RMA #e-discovery #BPM #BusinessProcessManagement #ECM #InformationGovernance #Records-Management #RM
6 comments
62 views

Comments

05-16-2012 15:57

Standalone RMA's aren't dead yet, however much they ought to be. I've been involved with too many orgs that still have their RM tools that require some sort of manual declaration into a file plan containing 16,327 records series.
I fully agree that CLM is the way things are headed, but I question how quickly we'll actually get there. I'm also fairly certain that before we actually do get real CLM baked into workflows involving LOB apps, orgs will need to take a hard look at file plans and retention schedules in order to trim them down into something that makes BUSINESS sense and is manageable. "Big buckets" are a great idea, but a lot of thought has to go into defining what he buckets actually are. That said, I've been involved in a few projects that are embracing big buckets, eschewing declaration, and managing content instead of records and so far they're doing okay.

05-16-2012 11:50

John, I agree that it will take some time for this paradigm to actually get fully deployed. If you look at from the viewpoint of "what should an organization do today, and incorporate into their 5 year plan" then they should not be thinking of deploying a stand alone RMA. They should be thinking of how to deploy an enterprise wide holistic solution that is transparent to most end users as possible.

05-16-2012 11:45

Bud, good to hear from you. The new paradigm, as it is being deployed today, fixes what was broken by building RM into the DNA of all business transactions. Much of the important content is classified automatically, transparent to the end user, thus providing a full audit trail of the business transaction that is used for discovery, FOIA, and audits.
RM as a foundation is not the focus, the business transaction that includes RM is the focus. Take SAP for example. A transaction in SAP may generate or receive unstructured documents or emails. Using a product like OpenText's Extended ECM for SAP, all these docs are captured as part of the business process. No user has to "declare" anything.

05-16-2012 11:44

Bud, good to hear from you. The new paradigm, as it is being deployed today, fixes what was broken by building RM into the DNA of all business transactions. Much of the important content is classified automatically, transparent to the end user, thus providing a full audit trail of the business transaction that is used for discovery, FOIA, and audits.
RM as a foundation is not the focus, the business transaction that includes RM is the focus. Take SAP for example. A transaction in SAP may generate or receive unstructured documents or emails. Using a product like OpenText's Extended ECM for SAP, all these docs are captured as part of the business process. No user has to "declare" anything.

05-15-2012 13:17

RMA's have been being incorporated into ECM applications as modules within the overall system since Open Text lead the way in the 90's with its purchase and integration of PSSoftware's RIMS Studio into Livelink. (I think that is what they were called at that time!) Many other vendors followed Open Text’s lead, and “integrated” records management processes became the norm for full spectrum software solutions.
However, the need for "declaration" of records is still a hotly debated topic, simply because of the consistently questionable accuracy of many software systems in attributing retention rules based on content analysis, data type or pre-assigned metadata. Although we are seeing increasing benefits from automated approaches to classification and application of retention rules, we are still not at the point where we can tell every Judge, "Sorry, but the computer could only find a few relevant e-records. You’ll just have to do with this limited information." For every positive example of automated classification or content analysis there are at least as many examples of spectacular failures.
Yes, “Auto Classification and eDiscovery tools are now included in some ECM suites.” However, that hardly means appropriate vendor solutions have actually been embedded in all enterprises, along with the blessings of all General Counsels. We will undoubtedly see the slow disappearance of an RMA’s separate existence and less reliance on separate records declaration processes as courts become more receptive to the results of query based forensic examinations during e-discovery. And, the inherent inability of organizations to successfully implement “hands-on classification” due to cost and human factors will drive more organizations to accept system generated records retention rule application (based on human design by the way).
However, the RMA and the application of retention policy by humans in one way or another will probably be around for a good while, until auditors and courts are more receptive to being told “The computer did it.”

05-14-2012 12:43

Mark, I agree with you except that records management, the act of getting users to declare a record or having some automated means of declaring a record, is broken. The RM foundation itself is broken (perhaps beyond repair) and trying to use it as the foundation for another process, like BPM, will also fail.
Bud