Applying the right balance of art and science will help in the development and implementation of a RM/ECM system that delivers real business benefits.

The environment for organizational records management has been changing dramatically in recent years. Examples of key changes include: the vast amounts of unstructured, electronic content now being generated, the increased strategic importance of knowledge management, the growth and complexity of legislation affecting data and information storage, and new ways of working which require shared access to data, often between organizations.

In this context, records management specialists face a range of new challenges. These include ensuring that all relevant organizational data, especially electronic unstructured content is identified and captured, that there is adequate data protection and information security, that high standards of data quality are achieved and maintained, and that there is a comprehensive retention and disposition schedule that meets both business and legal requirements and is enforced.

A new enterprise-wide approach to Records Management/Electronic Content Management (RM/ECM) is needed in order to address these challenges, and should be closely integrated with business planning and strategy in order to generate the greatest benefits to the organization.

For many organizations, implementing this type of system will require holistic transformation to ensure that the corporate culture as well as the organizational systems and processes support effective records management and electronic content management. Implementing and maintaining an effective RM/ECM system also requires the right balance of “art” and “science”.

The Art of Transformation for New RM/ECM includes: strong leadership and the setting of a clear vision and strategy to secure stakeholder commitment, cultural change initiatives to realign norms and behaviours with the new system, clear communication of roles and responsibilities, and ensuring that employees have appropriate skills and knowledge for effective records management.

The Science of Transformation for new RM/ECM includes: a systematic approach to mapping all organizational records and information, good knowledge of the legal requirements for records and electronic content management, IT and systems design knowledge and expertise in RM/ECM policy development.

Applying the right balance of art and science will help in the development and implementation of a RM/ECM system that delivers real business benefits, while reducing the risks of legal non-compliance.

The Changing Environment for Records Management

Four main factors have dramatically changed the environment for organizational records management in recent years:
1. Explosion of Information: Massive amounts of unstructured electronic content are being generated using an increasingly wide range of devices and multiple channels, including email communications, online social networks, and electronic collaboration tools.

2. Growing Importance of Knowledge Management: As the links between knowledge management and business performance become firmly established, information and records management are being seen as core strategic functions. Many organizations are now tackling the difficult challenge of how to capture and document tacit knowledge, so that this is not lost when employees retire or leave the organization.

3. Growth and Complexity of Legislation: Organizations of all types are increasingly subject to a complex mix of legislation, regulations and standards relating to privacy, confidentiality and other legal aspects of data storage and records management.

4. New Ways of Working and Open Data: The growth of non-standard forms of employment, new business models, collaborative working and Open Data initiatives increasingly requires organizational records and electronic content to be stored in ways that promote transparency and data sharing, while ensuring privacy and protection of the data from unauthorized access.

RM/ECM and Information Governance

More than ever, organizations need comprehensive and effective records management systems for the purpose of storing electronic content as well as paper documents. Technological advances are shaping the future of RM/ECM with some of the emerging developments including:

• Storage in “The Cloud”
• Enterprise-Wide RM/ECM and the Integration of Mobile Devices
• Records Management Automation

Today’s most forward-looking organizations are no longer talking about “records management”, but about “information governance”, a comprehensive, life-cycle approach that incorporates management of all types of business information, including structured data. With a focus on using information to generate business value, Information Governance integrates a range of functions including data privacy, eDiscovery, storage, metadata management, policy development and risk management. RM/ECM systems represent the aspect of Information Governance that is mainly concerned with unstructured information and electronic content.

The benefits of having high quality RM/ECM and Information Governance systems include:

• Improved decision making and business performance
• Greater efficiency and reduced costs
• Improved data security and compliance
• Business continuity/emergency preparedness

Establishing and managing such systems presents records management and IT specialists with a range of challenges, however, that can only be overcome using an enterprise-wide, transformational approach to records management.

Issues and Challenges in New RM/ECM

Data Capture: There are often significant gaps in an organization’s records, particularly relating to more qualitative, unstructured information such as email correspondence and social network posts. One problem is the difficulty of identifying and capturing all relevant content from across a wide range of sources and platforms. The gaps present serious risks of legal non-compliance and may prevent the organization from generating value from analysis of its own business data.

Data Protection and Information Security: Ensuring that the information held on RM/ECM systems is suitably protected and in compliance with relevant legislation can be a major challenge due to the multitude of legislative and regulatory requirements affecting many organizations. This is especially the case for firms operating across jurisdictions or using multiple sub-contractors, or when different organizations utilize the same RM/ECM system.

Data Quality and Preservation: Data quality problems often arise because of the ease with which records can be created or modified by multiple people, especially when the information can be accessed from different locations or devices. RM/ECM specialists also face the challenge of preserving electronic records when the hardware and software used to store them become obsolete.

Retention and Disposition: RM/ECM specialists must often take into account the needs many different stakeholders when determining how long to retain particular types of records and information. They also need to ensure that the organization is legally compliant and can meet the requirement for “defensible disposition”.

The Art and Science Transformation for New RM/ECM

Any organizational transformation initiative, including the implementation of a new RM/ECM system, requires a holistic approach to ensure that the corporate culture as well as the organizational systems and processes support effective records management and electronic content management.

Success transformation also requires the right balance of “art” and “science”:

• We define “science” as the tools, techniques and methods that are important when reviewing and redesigning organizational systems and processes in order to achieve a new business strategy or goal, such as effective RM/ECM. This includes the ability to identify and implement the most appropriate IT system to support RM/ECM.

• In contrast, we define the “art” as the softer skills needed to influence and manage the attitudes and behaviours of people in order to achieve the desired outcomes, as well as the more intangible skills often referred to in terms of “acumen”. This includes ensuring that the organization has the right type of culture to support Information Governance and new forms of RM/ECM.

Art and Science Skills in New RM/ECM

The “art” of developing and implementing effective RM/ECM systems includes, for example:

Leadership: The implementation of any organizational change initiative requires strong and effective leadership, to secure stakeholder commitment and coordinated input across the enterprise. Leaders should also identify and address any required cultural changes.

Vision and Strategy: Key responsibilities of the initiative leader and Steering Committee include developing a vision or mission statement and top level RM/ECM strategy.

Employees and other stakeholders need clear information and guidance about their own roles and responsibilities and understanding of the overall initiative.

The “science” of developing and implementing effective RM/ECM systems includes:

Mapping and Requirements Specification: A complete “data map” of the organization’s information should be produced and kept up to date over time, and the business and compliance requirements of the RM/ECM system identified.

Legislative Knowledge: It is more important now than ever for organizations to have specialist legal knowledge and expertise, either in-house or through the support of a trusted legal advisor.

IT and System Design: Organizations need to be able to identify the most appropriate IT infrastructure and platform for their RM/ECM purposes.

Policy and Procedure Development: Policies need to address the detailed requirements for capturing, classifying, storing, protecting, accessing and using various types of information, as well as the retention, disposition, migration and archiving rules and schedules.