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Records Management: What Are We Solving For?

Records management continues to be one of the risk areas of greatest concern for Corporate Compliance professionals, and one of the most vexing. Besides carrying a reputation as one of the least interesting topics, the myriad requirements, regulations, laws and litigation burdens imposed on corporations make this a topic that often turns the stomach of Compliance Officers.

And for good reason.

As a former Director of a global records management program for a heavily litigated Fortune 10 company, I am concerned for my Records Management brethren. They should be afraid….very afraid.

The world is changing rapidly, and Records Management professionals need to change with it…and fast. Technology is transforming the ways in which business is conducted every day. The world is becoming ever more social. There is more computing power in your pocket today than existed in the largest data centers just a few years ago. And the number of “friends” people have in their networks is astounding! The ability to share information is without bounds.

IT has given up on trying to standardize computers and mobile devices. The days of prohibiting access to corporate email from your personal iPhone are dying…some have described these days as “the wild west” of technology.

And businesses are tapping into the power of these devices and completely rethinking how they conduct their businesses. What does a Records Manager do when business agreements are made through Twitter?

My point here is this: the age old approach to records management is doomed to fail. Drafting and applying “records retention schedules” which try to describe which documents need to be retained and for how long will not work in tomorrow’s business world. But the solution is not simply to reinvent a new way to do retention schedules. The problem lies in the requirements!

Lawyers, legislators and regulators all need to be made to understand the burden they are imposing on companies. eDiscovery requests for litigation matters can crush companies, and traditional records retention is going to become all but impossible.

Records Managers are uniquely qualified to understand the situation. They need to come together and begin to work on influencing the regulations that they are required to adhere to. This is, in effect, a call to action. Through trade associations and other organizations, Records Managers need to begin to lead with new ideas to shape the future of this discipline.

One final thought: the costs associated with document production, eDiscovery and Records Management are staggering when totaled up. With a struggling economy, think of what we could do if companies were able to unleash these costs.  That’s an idea for the greater good…and isn’t that what we should all be focusing on?

New ideas are needed to help make Records Management achievable, affordable and, in the end, a value add to the business. I will be speaking about this at the upcoming Managing Electronic Records (MER) Conference in Chicago in May. Hope to see some of you there.

Topics: Records Management

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Thoughts about inspiring principled performance.

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