Evolving data issues challenge RM approaches
The RM struggle
Studies of records management consistently show that only a minority of organizations have a retention schedule in place that would be considered legally credible and that some have no schedule at all. Even if a schedule is in place, compliance is often poor. Some go so far as to say that RM is facing an existential crisis. Barclay T. Blair, president and founder of ViaLumina, an information governance professional services firm, says, “There is a battle shaping up between those who essentially want to keep everything forever because they might be able to extract business value from it and those who want to use records and information management to effectively get rid of as much information as soon as possible. It’s highly unlikely that records management will win this battle.”
From a business perspective, the potential upside of retaining corporate records so they can be used to gain insights into customer behavior, for example, may outweigh the apparent risks that result from non-compliance. “Storage costs have drastically decreased and are often bundled into other paid services such as messaging, collaboration and large-scale analytics services in the cloud,” Blair says. The cost of combing through and removing unnecessary information can be high. “I have seen a number of scenarios in which companies have undertaken projects to get rid of data, and they have found it more expensive than just keeping it,” he adds.
Blair continues, “The records management profession has backed itself into a corner by allowing the business to see it as a legal or compliance function with its highest measurable value coming from getting rid of outdated and useless records. However, the highest value is actually within its framework for understanding and classifying information so that its business value can be exploited. RM professionals who realize this will not only survive, but also thrive in a world of increasing information complexity and volume.”
If organizations view RM as a resource rather than a burden, it can contribute to enterprise success. In many respects, the management of enterprise information is already becoming more integrated and less siloed. For example, most enterprise content management (ECM) systems now have RM functionality. The same classification technology used for e-discovery is also used for classification of enterprise content. Seeing RM as part of that environment and recognizing its ability to enrich the understanding of business content as well as ensuring compliance can support that convergence.
Governance can be a unifying technique that provides a framework to encompass any type of information as it is created and managed. “Governance is a set of multidisciplinary structures, policies and procedures to manage enterprise information in a way that supports an organization’s near-term and long-term operational and legal requirements,” says Tim Dix, CEO of Xpriori, which provides information management and big data solutions including records management, classification and e-discovery software. “It is important to consider the impact of all forms of information—from big data to graph data—but within a comprehensive strategy of governance, the changing environment for RM becomes more tractable.”