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5 trends are reshaping records management

This article appears in the issue November/December 2013, [Vol 22, Issue 10]
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Trend #4: Open standards and open source change the sourcing landscape.

The public sector, in particular, has begun to drive significant change in the software acquisition landscape by calling for deliberate adoption of open standards and open source. Governments are hedging against the potential loss of electronic information, software obsolescence and increased costs, as well as demanding more portable data. Between 2011 and 2012, several national governments published directives to help their IT, records and procurement managers to understand, investigate and select more open technology platforms.

  • Open standards help address preservation, accessibility and interoperability needs. Govern-ments in the United Kingdom, United States and Europe have taken proactive stances on using software systems and file formats based on open standards. Open standards relevant to records and information management professionals pertain to long-term digital preservation (such as ODF, PDF/A) interoperability across content management systems (Content Management Interoperability Standard, CMIS) and metadata (Dublin Core). An update to CMIS was completed in late 2012 and includes new support for record management capabilities such as holds and retention.
  • Open source helps reduce cost and minimize vendor and platform lock-in. Programs developed by governments around the world have raised the profile and acceptance of open source software. The U.K. government, in 2012, published a detailed open source procurement toolkit to aid IT and purchasing managers. The Australian government has released an open source toolkit to support digital preservation in archive institutions. The U.S. Department of Defense has published best practices for safe and sustainable adoption of open source. The U.S. directive is specific about its goal to have open source records management tools available to government agencies by the end of 2014.

Trend #5: Auto-categorization becomes viable and approachable.

Transactional, regulated and semi-structured content are ripe areas for automated capture, categorization and application of retention policies. Opportunities to use auto-classification technologies for routine, high-volume, predictable electronic content are increasing as technology matures, more vendors provide integrated offerings and use cases are identified. Electronic information that uses a consistent structure and embedded metadata, or includes predictable patternsof numbers or text lends itself to content analytics, entity extraction and categorization tools for ingestion and application of retention, disposition and security or privacy access controls.

  • Auto-classification bridges compliance needs and business priorities. High-volume, transactional information is a pain point when storage costs escalate and discovery requests are made. Capture, categorization and retention scheduling are records functions that directly serve corporate goals to reduce costs, streamline customer service and increase digitization of processes. Consistent organization creates a foundation upon which to base content analytics and predictive technology use. Consistent disposal of obsolete information reduces the need for more storage resources, facilitates faster retrieval of data and lowers the cost of e-discovery.
  • Big content is as important as big data and requires coherent governance. Big data gets a lot of hype, but organizations must also cope with information stored in semi-structured or unstructured forms. Tabular data often sits unnoticed and unanalyzed in files created by individuals or small teams. E-mail, spreadsheets and ad hoc databases are used for critical business decisions and often sit under the radar of compliance or audit managers on file shares, collaboration sites or personal computers. Seventy percent of businesses use spreadsheets for critical business decisions, but fewer than 34 percent apply governance or controls to them.
  • Technology enforces and automates defensible approaches to disposition. Organizations that demonstrate consistent and predictable approaches to information handling, including its final deletion, are more successful when e-discovery orders compel extensive search, retrieval, review and production activities. Automation of routine processes, including scheduled disposal, lends weight to retention programs when challenged by legal counsel or auditors. Auto-classification tools ensure that retention and disposition rules are applied within specific parameters and are supported by documented policy rationale and citations.

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