Originally published on InContext, a Lexmark website. 

records-managers-obsoleteRecently, a lot of discussion has taken place around whether the records management profession will become obsolete. In the age of enterprise content management (ECM) and records and information management (RIM) software, organizations may believe technology can replace the role of the records manager. After all, some of these systems can track and manage documents and data through their lifecycles, electronically store information for however long is prescribed and automatically destroy information that laws or regulations say must be eliminated.

Yet, with the stunning growth of information created and collected by organizations, the role of the records manager seems more crucial, not less so. The advent of social media and the questions it raises about the temporal nature of much of that information present new challenges to companies and organizations and increases the need for someone to figure out what to do with all of this new information.

A recent article in IDC iVIEW, “The Digital Universe Decade – Are You Ready?” reinforces this belief.

“The influx of consumer technologies into the workplace will create stresses and strains on the organizations that must manage, store, protect, and dispose of all this electronic content. So, if you have ever suffered from information overload or been bombarded with emails, texts, instant messages, documents, pictures, videos, and social network invitations, get ready, this is just the beginning.”

Records and information management is often seen by business managers as an IT responsibility. The message that records managers need to express is that they provide the rules or processes for the creation, organization, and protection of information.  IT provides the systems that create and store the information, and one cannot serve the organization most efficiently without the other.

A RIM professional adds substantial value to an organization by bridging the gaps between business units with a trained eye on the organization’s information assets and their potential use and misuse.  They know what policies and procedures are needed to manage information from creation to disposition.  They realize that lost records mean lost business or increased legal liability. With the growing demand of compliance and the need to provide accurate, reliable records, and legally defensible ones, records managers are needed now more than ever.

To thrive, records management professionals have to take a larger, not smaller, role. They need to leave the relative obscurity of the back areas in which they often work and demonstrate value to upper management. They need to not only be willing to help their organizations handle the demands of increasing amounts of new information but they must also speak up and identify for their organizations what the challenges are and how they should be addressed.

The requirements for the new RIM professional will not be the same as for the former, paper-based records manager.  Records managers must take the initiative to sharpen their IT skills. It is imperative they understand the technology tools now used widely across the profession and how these tools create and store information.

The Records Management Skill Set

There are three areas to address in order to keep the profession relevant. First, records managers must be flexible enough to change and adjust their skill set to perform advanced technology tasks in order to demonstrate competence. Second, they need to facilitate collaboration between business units to effectively manage organizational information. Third, they need to facilitate a culture of information management awareness. This can be done through competence, collaboration, and consensus.

Competence:

In the article, “Taking the Lead in the Information Race,” published in ARMA International’s Information Management magazine, Jesse Wilkins, CRM, suggests records managers make changes by developing their “technology chops” and “have a constant thirst for learning. Demonstrating competence in all key business areas and how technology can be used to meet business goals is a requirement in order to exert an influence in an organization. Records managers need to understand business strategy and effectively communicate to management how their role directly affects the profitability of the company.

Collaboration:

Collaboration among key business units provides a solid foundation for supporting business strategy for the purpose of information and risk management. RIM professionals must be able to articulate their value to all levels and express how and why RIM practices must be lead by a RIM professional. RIM professionals are no longer just storage providers, but provide management of information for the purpose of risk management. In order to demonstrate that value, they must position themselves to collaborate with other key business units.

In particular, RIM and IT must work together for the purpose of information management. This is important in addressing governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) issues. IT traditionally finds solutions to management’s needs but records managers need to work with IT to make sure those solutions are the most efficient and effective in managing all information throughout its lifecycle.

An article written for IT professionals, “How to Thrive in Today’s Job Market: Five Tips for IT Professionals”, also has an excellent tip list for records professionals, encouraging them among other things, to build a better relationship with IT for the purpose of achieving organizational goals.

Consensus:

The RIM professional must help organizations reach a consensus regarding the important role of all business units in the management of information. This can be achieved by connecting business functions under one information management umbrella and correctly assigning ownership of information management duties. RIM leaders provide the unique function of creating business processes that manage information for the purpose of protecting the organization and its assets. It is important to have an organizational culture that considers information management a priority and sees the necessity of the RIM leader in carrying out that priority.

Records Management’s Future?

Will the records and information management profession become obsolete?  If RIM professionals do not demonstrate competence in the evolution of the business environment for the purpose of managing information, it could fade away over time. However, if RIM professionals step out of their back rooms and demonstrate knowledge and value, and then build on their technology skills to help their organizations successfully navigate the accelerating changes in the creation and distribution of information, the future is theirs to own.

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