The Records Management Revolution

Much has changed in the records management and information governance arena with regard to COVID-19, the Great Resignation, the evolution of intelligent information management (IIM) and rethinking how we work.

I had the opportunity to mingle with and listen to many professionals in this field at the 2022 AIIM Conference recently held in Denver. On the heels of the publication of the AIIM 2022 State of the Intelligent Information Management Industry Watch, the conference offered new insights and tangible examples of how to navigate the tricky world of compliance and risk.

Making it easy to do business with customers/suppliers/partners

The ideal outcome for organizations is to get to the state where information is used rather than just stored. Records are in the basement, in various file rooms and on associates’ desks (in some cases), making overall management a difficult endeavor. And, without leadership buying into the digital transformation of their operations, records managers continue to face the same “no, not at this time,” “things are okay as they are” and “we don’t have the budget to do what you are suggesting” types of responses to their plans to update how their organization handles and actually thinks about their information.

As AIIM so boldly distilled this thought – by adding a subhead to their report “It (Still) All Comes Down to the Customer” – a key factor that has bubbled up is risk. When businesses think in terms of the digital transformation (DX) improving the customer experience (CX), there is greater interest in getting changes made. And when the records/compliance professionals show the level of risk in not taking action, it throws the responsibility onto leadership.

Risky business

Risk has always been an underlying factor of storing, handling, preserving and destroying records. From what may be required by law, company bylaws or leadership’s level of accepting risk and the absence of any sense of the apparent risk, the tactic of putting risk to into the forefront is a solution to handle a lack of interest or support from managers.

By getting senior level management to sign off on not doing something, they are willing to bear the risk. Also, signing off on taking that risk will make them think twice. Business continuity is always a consideration when accessing risk to the business. And while records may not be top-of-mind, there is critical information in the different kinds of records a company is keeping.

If there is a problem, it is clear who made the decision to act and who made the decision to take the risk.

Reactive mode

Waiting for a problem is never a good state. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is an antiquated adage in the world of technological innovation.

  • Why keep old, energy-inefficient appliances to squeeze out that last bit of life? It actually costs you money.
  • Why keep a car past its time? It will cost you more in repairs and you miss out on new safety and economic breakthroughs.
  • Why skip replacing the plumbing when you do a bathroom or kitchen renovation and risk (there it is) the chance of a problem down the road that will mess up your reno?

We found ourselves in reactive mode with COVID-19. No one knew or had experienced a global pandemic or could possibly understand the long-term effects. Pivoting business operations to remote locations worked for some organizations easily – others, not so much.  What about managing those paper records at a distance? Not possible.

Frustration led to The Great Resignation, likely due to a combination of lack of work/life balance, recognizing that life is too short to be doing something that you are not passionate about, the exhaustion and fear of uncertainty, and the need to leave behind the roadblocks you face every day versus the open-mindset for change.

IIM has its day

As a purveyor of IIM and driving digital transformation, I thought, “YAY, people will really understand the need to digitize. Look at how easily you could pivot to remote if you had digital documents and records, automated processes, access, cloud safety and other jewels like e-forms and RPA to keep tasks going automatically.”

But, while there was a scramble during COVID and a greater understanding, there was not a surge. Business continuity strategies for operations and downsizing operations is happening because remote work did work in many cases, but putting DX as a priority along with the physical changes is still slow. It is a matter of aligning business objectives throughout the organization.

Alignment

I think of alignment as making sure the business is doing what you want it to do. To support a DX strategy and forget about information management is a clear misalignment.  In the AIIM 2022 “State of the Intelligent Information Management Industry,” respondents were asked “Think about how well your organization aligns business strategy with information management/governance strategy. What grade would you give your organization?” Nearly three-quarters — 74% — graded it average or worse.

In my grade book, 74 percent is a solid C. That is not very good on alignment. The study goes on to say that information management is “just an afterthought.” Only when there is a problem does it come to the forefront. While I would have thought there was an improvement due to COVID, AIIM asked that question, too, and found for the majority that there was no significant improvement in alignment — 57% said it had not improved over the last two years.

Returning to risk

This brings me back to risk. While natural disasters are understandable, a leaky ceiling into a records room does not draw a lot of attention. Yet, both can be devastating to an organization’s records. The rules of a state or of the organization itself on compliance – is important. The decision not to comply and take on the risk of that non-compliance effort needs to be reviewed, discussed and quantified so everyone understands what inaction could potentially cost in loss of information or penalties.

It is a different way to look at retention rules, document lifecycles and paper vs. digital – but when packaged, presented, reviewed and acknowledged,  it is clear to the records managers what can be accomplished and clear to leadership the risk and costs of not taking action.

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Joanne Novak is a program manager at Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A., Inc. and is responsible for program development with the company’s Business Intelligence groups, including the Intelligent Information Management (IIM) practice. Her responsibilities are to build sales and customer-facing educational and thought leadership insights as well as strategic initiatives for IIM.