Monday, March 18, 2013

Stop Whining Already

As I was extracting the plastic butter knife from Bob’s frail and thin-skinned chestal cavity (as you recall, Bob is our archetypical records manager that I love to pick on), in a rare moment of decency, I couldn’t help but realize that maybe I was too harsh and should reflect upon my pointed last blog post that made Bob feel so bad about himself.  If you need to refresh your recollection, here it is ( )

People tell me they are tired of “issues spotters”. That is the cynical and negative types like me that hone in on corporate America’s information management failings while eating popcorn just to point out the obvious. “I get that discovery is painful and expensive—help fix it”. “I get that records management is utterly broken—help make it better”. “I get that I am a powerless “Army of One” with a records management agenda that would keep 12 people busy and report to a knucklehead that doesn’t care, but get me funding to do something productive”. Ok I get it, you want solutions not the “in your face” slap of reality that reminds you that you have already been replaced by the IT folks and your days are numbered. 

Here are 7 things that you can do to transform your career

1.            SIMPLIFY-Rework all records policies and retention rules so that they can be applied by technology. If you have event based retention, get rid of it unless ABSOLUTELY required by law. Lots of folks point to imaginary laws that they claim requirement event triggers. Do the research and you will realize you are wrong lots of the time. In any event, work with your lawyers to get agreement to simplify, simplify, simplify.  Make it practical and seek reasonableness.
2.            RELOCATE-Politic to have records management be part of the IT department. They have money, control all info and need your help. I have heard the debate for years now. In fact, I hear it every year for 2 decades—where is the best corporate location for information management? Stop the debate find a better home, where you are loved.
3.            MARKET-Change your program to an Information Governance program, and market what you do, build support, and go and win budget for valuable initiatives. You are a business not an indigent on the dole. Make yourself valuable and sell your wares just like everybody else does.
4.            BUSINESS FOCUSED-Stop trying to get approval for saving 12 dollars by destroying 6 boxes of paper. Think big and think value to the business and what executives care about. If your information governance program saved millions of dollars and made the business appreciably more productive, the executive would take note. Defensible Disposition is a winner project for IT, Legal, Users, Customers and Executives. Go build a team, get buy in and elevate retention to a place of import.
5.            EDUCATE- Our world doesn’t need old tools, it needs really smart folks with knowledge of technology that makes things hum. Get busy and get smart ASAP.
6.            BUSINESS CASE- The  way you will get budget is to have a plan to attack a business problem. The plan will demonstrate how much it will cost, how long it will take, how many internal and external resources it will take, and WHAT THE ECONOMIC BENEFITS WILL BE TO THE ORGANIZATIOIN. If a project costs a lot and doesn’t provide calculable economic benefit it won’t get funded. If it is little in value to the organization nobody will care.  Think big and think smart. Cleaning house of 30%of the information crud clogging the pipes will be valuable because it can save major money.
7.            STOP WHINING-Bob, no one likes to hang with victims. Start to see yourself as a valuable asset to the company. Think money, not boxes. Think service provider, not box pusher. Think budget, not justifying your salary. Think relationships, not about being browbeat by the head of Real Estate to whom you report, but who cares naught for you.  Become, faster, smarter and business value focused.

Maybe if you can successfully take that on in the next 12 months, you won’t be so interested in collecting chapter pins at the next ARMA International Conference anymore.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Don’t shoot the messenger-Records management, as we know it, is dead.

The death of records management came silently, almost without any warning or notice. As Bob dragged his last banker’s box from one side of the dank basement to the unlit portion of the massive underbelly of the company, he let out his last gasp. The executives were not present and indeed took no notice. No gold watches. No kind words. To add insult to injury, the e-discovery hot shot lawyer was immediately circling around Bob’s decaying middle age mass to glom onto anything of value. There was lots of value but it wasn’t packaged up pretty for the corporate world to see, so the pickins were easy and plentiful.

Riddle me this?

Is it practical to expect your employees to classify company information given today’s information volumes?
Would your executives really want all employees to spend 10-20% of their day doing records management?
Do record management procedures help the business be more agile and competitive?
Should employees be expected to go through hundreds of millions of files from the past to determine if they still harness any on-going business value?
Does your records program really apply those retention rules to all electronic records across the company—or to any of it for that matter?
Does keeping everything just in case you get sued make sense given that your company already struggles to find needed business information?
Can your records program claim millions in savings from its activities?

Truth is, most would answer each of the questions with a resounding NO.

Records management once stood for the proposition that employees could and would code each record so that it went away at the end of its useful life. Those days are over.
Records management once stood for the belief that if everyone did their part, managing all content would be easy enough. That’s never going to happen again-- if it ever happened before.
Records management once stood for the idea that people (not technology) had to make business decisions about business content. That became wholly untenable as we created nearly 2800 new exabytes of data last year alone (IDC). One Exabyte is the data equivalent of 50,000 years of DVD movies - just to contextualize the enormity of the problem.

I have spent the last several years trying to figure out how to rework records management to deal with today’s volume and complexity of managing e-information. Part of that answer is Defensible Disposition (check out —how can we take simplified retention rules and apply them to electronic content without relying on the employees to do the heavy lifting? How can we attack different chunks of data to clean house of unneeded business content in a legally defensible way? In some cases, Defensible Disposition turns into an auto-classification exercise using technology to analyze and classify data. In other situations, it is a rather different exercise, looking at junk file types and making reasonable decisions about what content can be disposed. Big picture is this—making sure that retention requirements and preservation needs are satisfied before content is laid to rest and doing so with as little employee involvement as possible. Sometimes that means taking on big chunks and sometimes that means training retention rules to a computer crawler to classify content. But what it no longer means is that Bob’s replacement is going to be hauling boxes or the electronic equivalent.

Let me tell you about Bob’s replacement. She is super smart. She is a business person first and an IT person second. She only inherited records management because of Bob’s untimely demise. She will have no problem learning records management. She will bring fresh eyes and not be clouded by the “old school” ideas of records management past. She looks at Defensible Disposition as a way to clean up a big pile of digital crud and save the company millions, while making litigation response less onerous and increase profitability by making business “faster, better, cheaper.” She won’t let perfect get in the way of practical. To borrow a line from a song, “her future is so bright she needs to wear shades.”

I sat grave side at Bob’s funeral today. There were so many nice people saying so many kind words. One colleague stood and said that without Bob the boxes in the basement won’t move so often and so quickly anymore.

One man’s demise is another’s opportunity.

Randolph Kahn