Observations from The Canadian Institute’s Forum on Records Retention & Electronic Information Management

Observations from The Canadian Institute’s Forum on Records Retention & Electronic Information Management

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.

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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.
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