What the CIO Thinks About the Electronic Records Management Project

By Mimi Dionne posted 06-06-2013 09:33


The best CIO I ever worked for did several things very well: taught the organization how to plan strategically; bridged tactical IT implementations into organizational strategy; empathized with staff (translation: could and did say “No” to the rest of the organization when appropriate); drew multi-colored diagrams of informatics on white boards in a matter of seconds that left the rest of us stunned by their accuracy and precision of thought; and created presentations for senior leadership dense with qualitative and quantitative data.

To be one of their audience members is a fierce privilege – this person is just that good.

When they transitioned me out of their information technology department into a more corporate services one, I was devastated. I couldn’t think straight. Why? I hissed to myself repeatedly. What did I miss? Worse yet: what didn’t I do well?

As I gradually recovered from my surprise, I reviewed my experience with the CIO to date:

During the annual budget preparation cycle, I followed their expectations exactly, with one exception: I wove IT project and Records project jargon into the documentation. 2 were internal-to-Records proposed projects; the other 8 were external-facing. Only the 2 internal projects and 1 external-facing project were approved: the revision of the records retention schedule (RRS).

For our 15-minute weekly status updates, I gradually increased the level of sophistication of the reporting templates. The meetings were satisfactory.

In the midst of the RRS-revision, our 2 hour-long discussions of legal citations versus best practices were not. At both conclusions I would think to myself, “I have to get this right. It’s not right and I have to get it right. Didn’t they encourage me to stand my ground?”

When my file share management colleagues alerted me that they would be migrating objects in the near future, I requested to review and delete duplicate objects. The CIO declined the request based on the intricacy of the migration.

But WHY wasn’t my work right? Ok, so, injecting Records project language into the IT project landscape is problematic. My first-year project proposals were written from a best practices POV; they didn’t demonstrate familiarity yet – why would they (I certainly grew to know the environment more intimately the longer I was with the company and my project proposals reflected this).  But the proposals were ambitious. “Doesn’t that count for something?” I thought. In a status update meeting, little interaction is required. A discussion of legal citations versus best practices is more problematic (as it is for the most stalwart of information management colleagues). “Huh,” I said to myself. “I take responsibility for my mistakes. What then?”

Not-so-suddenly, it hit me: risk management.

My suspicions were first realized when the CIO asked me to lead an electronic records cleanup project for one storage location after I transitioned out. I did a nice job, though I say it myself: I returned almost 40% of electronic space back to the organization. Immediately following, I gingerly tiptoed towards electronic records management for all storage locations. A soft opening of the project…I’m talking “2-steps-forward-5-steps-back” speed…yet it worked. In the midst of the planning phase, the organization expressed at least 2 “oh-shit” moments, because I was earnest about executing the project. “Make the commitment,” I said, “and I guarantee you a return on your investment.”

WHY?I continued to debate internally.

In the past we’ve looked to this executive to be our sponsor for the electronic records management implementation. Sure, our two departments have much in common. On the surface, it seems like a good fit: we work in electronic objects, architectures and storage locations. Superficially, a CIO has so much power and autonomy – they can do so much good! Like the Records and Information Manager, the CIO answers to everyone. A large part of their job is marketing. Because of the uniqueness of their position, they know (often times better than we do) the real tolerance level of electronic records management in the organization.  Why not leverage Records services?

Because the CIO believes they cannot be the only executive supporting electronic records management in the organization.

These people are dog-ass tired, looking for the simplest way to unravel complex problems. Our ERM softwares add a level of complexity and end user interaction! Their world is intricate enough without the human factor, for god’s sake. CIOs are frightened of the risk of managing the implementation: one false step is all it takes for an overstimulated organization to point fingers. Political scapegoats are a dime a dozen and they’ve (probably) got a mortgage and two car payments and school loans and a dog and a cat. Viewed in this light, asking one person to carry the entire risk of an organization is an unfair request and an unrealistic expectation from us.

My hard-won lesson (and fellow Records and Information Managers, take what you will from it): my CIO needs me to be Someone Else. To propel the information management work forward, I don’t have the luxury of being myself. Today, I watch my CIO very carefully, partnering and complimenting their skill sets as best and unobtrusively as I can. I am my own electronic records advocate.

Meanwhile, I’m spending the next 6 months getting ready for the next 5 years.

#ERM #InformationGovernance #electronic records management #changemanagement #ECM #ElectronicRecordsManagement #culture #recordsretentionschedules