Personnel may change; business processes may change; retention periods do not. Every records culture is different. The Records and Information Manager requires the skills of an astute surveyor.
Not Your Typical Job
A Records and Information Manager for a project-driven organization is a role of implementing agility through quiet leadership. Since this environment typifies the 16% of companies that rely on in-house talent to build in-house applications, advocating proper retention decisions on electronic and hard copies equals swimming in tumultuous political waters.
This is a tough, tough undertaking: project management companies are usually document control organizations. To develop into a sophisticated records and information management program — which includes the categorization, retention and destruction of its records collected from a project’s lessons learned — is not typically on the list of the top three most important corporate initiatives — until this year.
From Resource- to Results-Based
Research firm Gartner’s summary report, “Leading in Times of Transition: The 2010 CIO Agenda” claims the focus is shifting from resource-based IT to results-based IT. Applying lessons learned in this recovery, enterprises are transitioning their strategies from cost-cutting efficiency to value-creating productivity — the perfect cue for a Records and Information Manager to contribute to the health of the information technology environment. A presentation to the executive level, especially the CIO, must include facilitated discussions to decide who will financially commit to the correct, comprehensive records operations.
The Dotted Line
en masse without further criteria applied. The holdings sit in either Tier 2—3 or offsite paper storage, which is the Records and Information Manager and Information Technology’s domain.
Rarely is it clarified for a division head properly that once information crosses that dotted line to be declared as records, it is released into the custody of the assembled team.
To Inventory or Not to Inventory
It is the responsibility of the Records and Information Manager to express admiration for the CXO’s sense of ownership and firmly reassure him that he, or any of his appointed subject matter experts, will be included in the review process during the crucial moments.
She must quell the terror against action items on any records holdings. A good response in the moment goes a long way. “What if we find The Wrong Thing?” is the common anti-inventorying war cry. “Obfuscation is not the mission of a good Records and Information Management program,” should be the appropriate response. “Worse yet: what if the company doesn’t know how to locate the record that helps?”
When Poor Morale Strikes
We live in an era in which Gartner states the CXO-level turnover is higher than ever before; the average CIO tenure is 4.4 years. Research firm Forrester claims that the cultural shift from information technology to business technology will consume 5-7 years of that department’s attention.
In addition, 2010 is another year of jobless recovery. This high turnover contributes to a strange phenomenon that is a by-product of poor records practices: when best practices in records do not exist, the hours lost due to poor search and retrieval time trickles down to the analyst level and contributes to low employee morale.
The Records Vision
Armed with the right time-study statistics, the Records and Information Manager must forge ahead with cooperation from her team of Legal, Information Technology and Compliance. She should highlight their collective vision of the culture’s records life cycle over at least the next five years.
The presentation should include commentary on improved employee productivity, decreased costs, revitalizing the organization, faster response time, minimized risk and improved asset utilization.
The denouement of the presentation is to align records management business processes to efficiencies and performance. Personnel may change; business processes may change; retention periods do not.
All she needs is one CXO-level champion. Best practices require top executives voicing their support to activate change.
The Sweet Art of Diversion
Every records culture is different and the role requires the skills of an astute surveyor. An important moment in the life of every project is the contract — it would behoove a Records and Information Manager to contribute language that will protect her retention periods in the future.
She should also tack on to the latest IT initiative to create business process results for the organization. The challenge is realistic expectations from all parties.
While it’s true that applying retention is as much the application of the sweet art of diversion as it is of adhering to compliance responsibilities, the path to success lies in the ability to discuss best practices with everyone, no matter their level in the organization.