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Three hot issues in records management

This article appears in the issue May 2012, [Volume 21, Issue 5]
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If the content is not managed, organizations become vulnerable to sanctions resulting from failure to disclose discovery information. "In the discovery process, everything is discoverable, not just records," says Mandel, "so even if content is not declared as a record, it needs to be governed." In such cases, the unmanaged content should be indexed and searched. For the typically large volumes of information subject to e-discovery, the need to index, analyze and classify documents in a short time frame can turn what might have been a routine process into an emergency.

Legitimate approach

In a recent court case, Da Silva Moore v. Publicis Groupe, the option to use computer-aided review (CAR) in e-discovery was approved. That ruling, from the Honorable Andrew J. Peck, U.S. Magistrate Judge for the Southern District of New York, issued an opinion that "computer-assisted review is an acceptable way to search for relevant ESI [electronically stored information] in appropriate cases." The court did not order or require CAR to be used, but now that the ruling has been made, CAR can be considered a legitimate approach to reviewing documents for e-discovery.

In that method, experts review and code a training set of documents and then the software codes the remaining documents predictively, which dramatically reduces the number of documents that must be reviewed manually. Because the review process accounts for an estimated 60 to 90 percent of litigation costs, any savings in that area are well leveraged.

Those major issues in records management are all interrelated. Datskovsky says, "Records management should be part of an overall strategy of information governance. Auto-categorization allows large amounts of information to be classified properly, which otherwise might be misclassified or unmanaged. The search process in e-discovery can be more directed when the contents of documents have been analyzed in a rational, repeatable manner."

The roadmap forward

Even in sluggish economic times, the value of records management appears to be strong enough to prompt continued expansion. The global market for records management is expected to grow at 10 percent per year from 2011 through 2015, according to TechNavio. AIIM's study indicated that 50 percent of respondents were planning to increase their expenditures in records management, versus 14 percent who planned to reduce them.

Records are maintained for business, historical and legal reasons, among others. Without an organizing framework, valuable documents will be buried in the digital landfill. "The time for preventing the digital Dark Ages is now," Baron says. "The government is pushing for openness and availability of information, and to support this we need a strong commitment to managing our records properly, as well as the right tools to analyze and search them."

Ensuring a legacy for future generations

The Presidential Memorandum — Managing Government Records, issued on Nov. 28, 2011, recognizes the dramatic increase in the volume and diversity of information that government agencies must manage, and calls for effective use of technology to ease that burden. The memorandum states that "improving records management will improve performance and promote openness and accountability by better documenting agency actions and decisions." It also cites the cost savings and increase in efficiency produced by properly managed records.

Each agency was required, within 30 days, to appoint a senior official to coordinate with the agency's records officer, CIO and general counsel in a review of the agency's records management program. The memorandum called for particular attention to be directed toward the management of electronic records, including e-mail and social media. The resulting report from each agency identified plans for improvement, regulations that might pose obstacles to improvement and policies that would facilitate improvement.

By March 27, 2012, a directive was to be issued by the Archivist of the United States at the National Archives and Records Administration   requiring each agency to take specific steps to reform records management policies and practices. The focus of the directive is to create a more efficient  governmentwide framework for records management, increasing open government and appropriate public access to government records, and transitioning from paper-based to electronic records.

Sometimes records are viewed in a perfunctory light—they are maintained because regulations require it. Sometimes records are seen as a resource for business purposes—to check a fact or prove a point. But the Presidential Memorandum references the larger, historical importance of government records as a means by which "future generations will understand and learn from our actions and decisions." In this respect, the importance of maintaining records that are effectively managed cannot be overstated. Records management, a process that has all too often been an afterthought, is increasingly being understood as mission-critical.

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