Alan Weintraub

Alan Weintraub

December 2018

Information Management

Making Records Managers Information Heroes

Records Managers have always struggled to be viewed as providing strategic value to their organization.  If you look at the history of records management, it started as a facilities function managing paper stored in boxes.  The records manager’s primary function was boxing up paper, shipping to an off-site facility, and retrieving the boxes when someone needed access to a record.   As we moved from hardcopy-based organizations to more paperless based operations, we faced the need to now manage the electronic records using new software solutions.  This shifted some of the responsibility of declaring the record to the information creator, causing a major disruption in how users create and manage their information.  Implementing an electronic records management solution is not an insignificant cost and could have a major impact on the IT budget.  The combination of user disruption and system cost has a question on the need for a records management solution.

I have had many senior managers ask me why should they implement records management. They see records management as villains, as a cost avoidance rather than a cost advantage. Some even question the need for records management as they have still not been sued or are yet to be subject to regulatory requirements. It is the industries that are governed by federal, government and state regulations that have made the investment to implement a records management program. These implementations have not always been easy or successful. Records management solutions require end-users to work differently, often using new systems that require a high degree of structure and additional work to manage and declare records. Many end-users don’t see the value of managing records, making the records manager’s job that much harder. The combination of senior managers not finding value in records management and end-users not wanting to change how they work makes the records manager’s job seem more like they’re the villain’s of the peace, rather than the saviors of the day.



So how does a records manager save the day and become an information hero?  Firstly organizations must view information as a valuable asset that can be used to advance the strategy and success of the company.  We are all used to assigning a value to physical assets such as computers, printers, desks, phones and other tools that we use to get our job done.  Without these tools, employees would not be able to do their job and the organization would not be able to achieve their revenue and strategic goals.  In the same way, organizations need to look at information as an asset in the same way as they look at physical assets.  Without reliable information, organizations would not be able to make the decisions necessary to meet their goals.  Records managers should be seen as the keepers of this the companies most valuable information.  As with the physical assets, information will have different degrees of value. 

Information value can be seen in differing dimensions, risk of loss and cost to recreate.  Within any organization, the records manager is in a unique position to help their organization gain an understanding of the value of their information. This understanding allows the records manager to elevate their position from a cost avoidance position to one that advances the organization by managing strategic, commercially valuable information (the company’s information crown jewels). Having the right information available, accessible and reliable, helps the organization turn their information into a strategic advantage.

To become the organization's information hero, the records manager should focus on:

  • Identifying those records that have the highest risk. This will allow the organization to make an informed decision on retaining or protecting those assets.
  • Identifying those records with the highest value. This will allow the organization to focus their spending on protecting, managing and using the information for strategic decisions
  • Working with the Chief Data Officer (CDO) to help provide the best availability, accessibility and reliability of the most valuable information assets

The CDO is responsible for implementing solutions and frameworks that deliver quality data and information to the organization’s end-users.  The CDO oversees the information governance program that is usually designed to ensure information is available, accessible and reliable.  End-users need to be comfortable that the information they are using for all aspects of their own functional responsibility including, reporting and making key decisions is trustworthy and requires minimal reconciliation.  Working in today’s digital world requires that users have the right information at their fingertips to make quick, informed decisions. Records managers have the opportunity to support the CDO in the set-up and execution of information governance program.  They have visibility into the critical information needed by the end-users.  Records managers also support the enforcement of the information governance policies.  They can provide the CDO with key statistics around information that pertains to retention, risk and value of the information to the organization.  In summary, Records managers are the keeper of the organization’s key information or records assets.  It’s this information that can be used to help an organization meet its revenue and strategic goals.

Be sure to download our Data Retention Whitepaper here.

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