In my never-ending search for good blog topics, I came across a quote this week from John Mancini in an interview in Fierce Content Management:
“FCM: What happens to traditional records management and governance in this new reality?
John Mancini: If by traditional records management you mean manual systems - even if they are computerized - then I would say traditional records management is dead. The idea that we could get busy people to care about our complicated retention schedules, and drag and drop documents into folders, and manually apply metadata document by document according to an elaborate taxonomy will soon seem as ridiculous as asking a blacksmith to work on a Ferrari.
Traditional records management survived the era of Systems of Record in which we were managing a relatively limited set of information assets with high individual value per asset. It won't survive the era of Big Data and Big Content and the need to manage information that is massive in scale, has incredible velocity, and is extremely challenging in terms of variety and complexity.
It won't survive information whose primary value lies in the aggregation of large volumes of tiny assets with limited individual and intrinsic value. Organizations will be in desperate need of information professionals in the next decade who understand records management and legal principles, and can apply those principles to the structure of automated systems.”
Let’s look at the points in this quote separately:
Does the “primary value [of records management] lie in the aggregation of large volumes of tiny assets with limited individual and intrinsic value”?
Big Data is the manipulation of large volumes of tiny assets into insights. There is exciting work being done in this area, particularly in Business Intelligence. I am not entirely sure what Big Content is, but I suspect it is the massive volumes and wide variety of content types. These are important areas, but the value of records management remains focused on the value of the individual assets. Retaining the right assets, disposing of assets accurately when their retention period is up, and being able to convince a court or regulatory body that you have this process under control. These are legal and compliance requirements, not optional elements that can be fashionably discarded.
Will “traditional records management survive the era of Big Data and Big Content”?
The key to records management in the era of Big Data and Big Content is to automatically apply retention policy to information assets. I believe that the concept that we can crawl through repositories and automatically classify content into retention schedules with enough confidence to discard other approaches to records management and rely on this approach solely is a decade away if it is ever achieved. What we can do today is combine the best of search and crawler-based classification with content types, an information lifecycle, metadata inheritance and transforming business processes to combine these two approaches into content governance solutions. We have seen this approach applied effectively in the largest organizations.
Will “people drag and drop into documents into folders” to classify them”?
One of our most successful practice areas is the replacement of Windows Explorer and Share Drives with SharePoint drop zones so that users can drag their documents into SharePoint sites and use SharePoint Search instead of Windows Explorer to find documents. Some days, I feel like I spend my life dragging and dropping emails into folders as an act of classification. (I am a filer, not a piler.) Drag and drop is only one technique, but it is clearly alive and well. What people resist is the application of additional metadata to documents once they have been dragged to a folder. Randy Kahn calls this the principle of 5 clicks. More clicks than that and it won’t happen.
Is “traditional records management dead”?
In some ways, traditional records management is one of the healthiest businesses within IT. As the requirements for content governance become clearer, many large organizations are adopting unified records management solutions that integrate the management of physical and electronic records into a retention taxonomy. They are simplifying their complicated retention schedules into big buckets which better support accurate classification by users and systems.
What we have seen is that the way to get busy people to care about their retention schedules is to convince them that retention schedules can be transparently applied once a content type has been selected. Then, their responsibility is to define and manage their inventory of content types and its mapping to a retention schedule. I believe that the changes in records management are incremental and not as revolutionary as the transformation of a blacksmith into a Ferrari mechanic.
Will “Organizations will be in desperate need of information professionals in the next decade who understand records management…”?
I absolutely agree with this point. Modern organizations need to be able to:
Apply retention policy to ALL information assets, both physical and electronic through an information lifecycle. This is THE mandate of traditional records management.
Streamline complex retention schedules into big buckets to enable the benefits of modern tools. Some of the buckets will be very large, but the key to the buckets is the consistent application of retention policy.
Tightly integrate physical records into content governance solutions. Many of the requirements of physical records management are uniquely, well, physical, but they still need to be incorporated.
Integrate email records into content governance solutions. It is odd to me that this requirement is still so under-achieved in so many organizations, but we hear this requirement thundering from the organizations we work with.
Figure out how to integrate Share Drives. This is still the biggest digital landfill in many organizations.
Combine all of these elements into unified content governance solutions. This includes the elements of people, process and technology that so many contributors to the AIIM Communities articulate.
Traditional records managers have been focused on these requirements for many years. There remains a steep learning curve and intense requirements for the application of modern tools to enable unified content governance to be achieved in the era of Big Data and Big Content. I believe we are entering the golden age of enterprise content and records management because records requirements are here to stay and someone in this era still has to be concerned with records.
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This post and comment(s) reflect the personal perspectives of community members, and not necessarily those of their employers or of AIIM International