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 www.Delve.us) —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.