It was my privilege to co-chair this forum on Records Retention & Electronic Information Management from May 28-29, 2013 with Susan Nickle of Wortzman Nickle Professional Corporation.
The Canadian Institute assembled an excellent group of industry experts to explore records retention and diverse electronic information management topics such as cloud computing, outsourcing data storage and processing, auto-classification, social media and the BYOD (bring your own device) movement. Here are some of my observations from the sessions:
- Records Manager as influencer – Given the volume of information that needs to be managed and the fact that ever-increasing amounts of that information is not under records management’s custodianship (and may never be), the role of the Records Manager must change from enforcer to influencer. A Records Manager needs to inform, guide, and advise employees at all levels to adopt and consistently implement appropriate, legally-compliant practices for managing information. However, it is the responsibility of management to ensure or enforce compliance.
- Manage all recorded information, not just records – Very few employees appreciate the differences between a ‘record’ and a ‘non-record’ or even between an ‘official or business’ record and a ‘transitory’ record. The time has come to focus on managing information (or content) wherever and however it is recorded and regardless of what it is called. The average employee is seeking guidance in managing his/her ‘stuff’.
- Carefully position the implementation of auto-classification – Auto-classification can provide greater precision than many employees when it comes to accurately and consistently classifying information. But employees will resist auto-classification unless it is transparent (working largely behind the scenes) and positioned as a tool to help them be more efficient in organizing and retrieving their information. Otherwise, many employees will feel threatened that a computer and software are ‘taking over’ their work.
- ‘Good enough’ is likely still better than how employees manage information today – Yes, there are standards and best practices for managing information and in some cases there are also very clear legal obligations. But . . . Records Managers shouldn’t “let perfection be the enemy of good”. Courts don’t demand perfection in records management for discovery purposes, just reasonable good faith efforts to support the production of relevant information not subject to solicitor-client privilege.