Leadership Vacuum for Records Management?

By Susan Cisco posted 08-10-2010 14:49


AIIM Expert Blogger Mark Mandel recently asked, “Will the RIM Profession Become Obsolete?” With a 30 year view of records management as a practitioner in private and public sectors, educator, consultant, and now blogger, I think the bigger risk is a lack of leadership for records and information management at C-levels of organizations. Recent surveys support the existence of a leadership vacuum:

  • “Records managers continue to be challenged to take a sufficiently strong leadership role in the deployment of consistent retention policy throughout their organizations.” (2009 Cohasset/ARMA Electronic Records Management Survey)
  • In last year’s AIIM Market Intelligence white paper on electronic records management, less than 10% of respondents said they had a chief records officer at the executive level. “We also asked which direction records management responsibility was likely to head in 3-5 years time. There was a general indication that IT should take less responsibility, and that there should be more executive or C-level officers prepared to take on the responsibility and acquire the expertise.”

Carol Brock, CRM made the case for creating Chief Records Officer (CRO) positions in every federal agency in her testimony on behalf of ARMA International to the U.S. House of Representatives' Information Policy, Census, and National Archives Subcommittee in June 2010.She suggested that it may be time to consider a CRO for every federal agency and empower the function to enable the competencies of records and information management.

For organizations that recognize the need for a robust records and information management function and have the appetite to fund the supporting technologies, they will be challenged to find the right staff to build it. I know 2 major organizations that searched for several months to find CRMs with sufficient experience in electronic records and information management to lead enterprise programs. The more seasoned CRM’s have come up through the physical records management ranks and are generally unprepared for the realities of electronic records management, electronic discovery, and SharePoint governance.  

So what’s to be done?

I’m not sure if anyone is adequately prepared for the realities of enterprise electronic records and information management at the C-level. Here are some steps toward grooming future CROs:

  • Get Certified– It’s better to be professionally certificated than not. CRM and AIIM’s ERM Certificate Programs including the SharePoint 2010 Certificate Program are good investments to get the basics.
  • Align with Legal – Attorneys can be authoritative communicators to help in establishing a robust records and information management program. They understand the risks of non-compliance with laws and regulations and will need to collaborate in communicating and sustaining the electronic discovery program.
  • Align with IT – It is clear that many of the future challenges for records management will result from the complexity of the various repositories that contain electronic records.  This is clearly the domain of IT, but most organizations do not have the records management expertise within IT to tackle these challenges when the systems are envisioned as opposed to when there are already millions of potentially uncontrolled records within them.   IT needs our help. 
  • Recruit Capable Graduate Students to the Profession– The next generation of C-level records management professionals need to prefer operating in electronic environments. In addition to recruiting from graduate schools in information science and libraries, we need to consider MBAs and law school graduates.

What do you think needs to be done?

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