IT owns the tools. RM owns the rules

By Mimi Dionne posted 04-23-2010 10:32


I’ve matured professionally in an era of progressive electronic records and information management. My education in grad school 10 years ago consisted of hard copy, imaging, microfilm, and database management—very Robek-which laid a nice groundwork in anticipation of my first Analyst-level position. One of the many tools available during my course of studies at UT Austin was the Records Management listserv; I give my friends a lot of credit for freely sharing wonderful advice.  However, the mantra (which I first heard on the RIMserv), “IT owns the Tools, RM owns the Rules” as relationship guidance between the two groups seared my brain.  I felt shocked the first time I read it—to me, it was optimistic at best and painfully deluded at worst. As I’ve grown into Records and Information Management over the past decade, I’ve heard the call from our experts to be more IT-centric—not electronic records centric, but pure IT centric, and I’m not sure my opinion on the RM/IT mantra has changed.  For me, the challenge of keeping up with the pace of electronic records trends and outrunning the dread that our industry experts are right has been an opportunity for me to design my approach to professional development.

It’s not as if we haven’t heard the siren song to pay appropriate attention to electronic records issues or we face irrelevance. What concerns me is the increasing frequency at which we’re hearing that we’ve missed the boat. I have it on good authority that at a high-profile discovery-related educational session this year a panel claimed they can teach their analyst level Records and Information Management in two months or less (!). That’s bad PR on our part. I came to the party a little later than most (a little under a decade ago, that is); that’s no excuse. I’ve attended a series of fabulous workshops taught by different groups over the years—even participated in some of them. Is it true? Has the moment in which we could make a difference come and gone?

The recession is throwing me off from answering the question. So much havoc since the summer of 2008—it’s tough to tell the state of Records Management budgets yet. They may be healthier now than then…(I’d love to see a current survey). I will say this: from my experience with implementing electronic records management software (third party and homegrown), decommissioning IT applications, discovery efforts, and more, the difference between how we see electronic records issues and the perspective of an information technology purist bothers me.  We’re still not talking the same language—and, like you, my days are long spent in efforts to determine and respond adequately why. I am constantly re-addressing this; however, like you, no budget money equals training on my own dime.

I do what you do: I read all I can, talk to as many colleagues as I can, ask stupid questions to get to the smart ones, and I devised a huge questionnaire for almost any IT situation which I committed to memory. If I calculate my time spent out of the 7 day week, my IT research equals about 45%. I have no idea if this is reasonable or not, but  it’s what I need, especially since in the past I’ve served twice as an administrator for legacy systems. Which begs the question of how best to work with IT departments when you’re the administrator of a legacy system, but that’s a post for another time. I read on two fronts: IT architecture from roughly 5 years ago and projected successful applications that may be implemented soon. Meanwhile I anticipate those golden moments where I translate between Legal and IT. Wouldn’t that be fascinating if that’s where RIM is heading?

#ElectronicRecordsManagement #training #IT #recordsmanagers #translation #RM