Internal Social Collaboration: More Records to Manage

Internal Social Collaboration: More Records to Manage

I’ve been reading a lot recently about social media and collaboration tools and came across an interesting article in a Harvard Business Review blog (HBR Blog Network) about social collaboration within organizations.

Brad Power, a consultant and researcher on process innovation, recently published an article entitled “How Collaboration Tools Can Improve Knowledge Work” which discusses the benefits of internal, online collaboration tools and the cultural challenge in their successful adoption.  He also highlights the successful adoption of social collaboration tools at Nationwide Insurance, a $20 billion (US) financial services provider where “online social collaboration has become part of the workplace and a key tool for engaging workers”.  According to Power, Nationwide Insurance employees can use social collaboration tools to:

  • Ask online questions
  • Post comments
  • Make announcements
  • Recognize a peer
  • Search the network to find answers
  • Share with groups or friends

Social Collaboration Benefits

According to Power, Nationwide’s experience demonstrates the many organizational benefits of social collaboration tools: “Nationwide’s social collaboration tools help people get conversations started, make faster decisions, get work done more quickly, communicate better top to bottom, recognize peers and better engage workers.  All this by making the company more like the real world we live in. . . . When workers ask questions of the community, they usually get faster answers than from the help desk or e-mail.”

I found it interesting that – at least in Nationwide’s experience – social collaboration tools have begun to replace some e-mail communications.  According to Power, “Some [Nationwide] leaders are now posting quick (less than two minutes) video announcements about new or changed processes, instead of sending e-mail.  This has been a real hit with generation Y employees in Nationwide’s contact centers, for example, who are comfortable with this type of communication.”

Records and information management (RIM) implications

Like almost all of the articles and books I’ve read on social collaboration (and social media for that matter), Power makes no reference to managing social collaboration content from the RIM perspective.  But as RIM professionals know, some social collaboration content is a record.  And as more and more internal communications move from e-mail to social collaboration tools such as instant messaging and wikis, the impertative for managing the record content will become even more critical.

I think organizations are approching social collaboration the same way they approached e-mail 7-10 years ago: they are seduced by the business benefits of the new technology but don’t yet appreciate that many of the communications made via that technology are records which must be managed as such.

The time has come for all RIM professionals to start talking up the RIM implications of social collaboration tools – both those used internally as in the Nationwide example and those used to communicate with external stakeholders – with senior management, IT, business units, legal and other stakeholders.  To not do so is to negate our responsibility to advise and guide our organizations in appropriately managing all recorded information.

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    Sheila Taylor
  • Sheila Taylor is a well known consultant, educator, speaker and writer with more than 25 years of experience in the information management (IM) field.

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    Case in Point

    That's A Lot of Records!
    Often the requirement for a needs assessment is driven by a specific initiative being considered or an immediate problem to be solved, rather than a general desire to establish a corporate (or organization-wide) IM program. We had a client wanting to improve its management of a specific group of critical records – thousands of member files in paper, microform and digital formats containing hundreds of unique document types.
    Assess, Plan and Schedule
    Ergo reviewed the organization’s current practices for managing those records, compared those practices to best practices, and identified risks and areas for improvement. From there we developed a strategic plan with a focus on records storage and retention. The plan identified the operational, financial and technological requirements for implementing the recommended changes, improvements and enhancements in the lifecycle management of the member records. Activities in the plan were classified as short term (next 6-12 months), medium term (next 12-24 months) and longer term (next 25+ months).
    Step by Step Success
    Implementation of the strategic plan enabled this organization to ensure its member records are properly identified, organized, accessible, protected and retained as long as necessary to meet operational and other requirements.