Making Records Management Simple at ARMA


Next week I will be at the ARMA Conference in Vegas. While I will be there in support of Alfresco, I have a secondary purpose. I want to brainstorm with attendees on how we can make Records Management (RM) simple.

The reason is straightforward. Adoption of RM systems by end-users is horrible. We have spent most of the past two decades forcing non-Records Managers to act and think as Records Managers. It is a failed approach. We need to work on creative ways to shift from a world where success is the exception to where success is the rule.

Taking a New Approach

Last week, Cheryl McKinnon gave an excellent talk on this topic during a webinar Alfresco hosted, Simplify Records Management to Ensure Project Success: A User-centric Approach. In it, Cheryl share many statistics discussing the failed state of our current Records Management and Information Governance efforts, many from a joint Forrester-ARMA research effort.

After a setting the stage, Cheryl shared her recommendations.

  • Simple web and mobile access to content anywhere and anywhere
  • Inherent categorization, classification, and policy application
  • Analytics everywhere
  • Better identity management across content applications
  • Governance, across the entire life cycle of content…not just at the end.

What Cheryl is describing is a world where people have access to Content at all times, regardless of where it is stored, without the complications of remembering a multitude of system logins. Behind the scenes, the Content is smartly managed from creation through to its natural end-of-life in a manner that is both compliant and simple for the everyone using the system.

Does that sound right to you? It sounds right to me. How do we make that world a reality?

Moving from Failure to Success

There is a two-step approach to moving forward. The first step is to make things SIMPLE for the people whose job isn’t that of Records Manager. If a system is simple to use, you will be surprised at how much Content starts getting stored within it.

Once the Content is captured, the next step is to make sure that the appropriate Governance is applied. There are several approaches to solving that problem. All of them have one word in common, automated.

It is impossible for any organization to employ enough Records Managers to keep up with the volume of Content being generated at every turn. Having other members of the organization share the load doesn’t work, so a solution has to be found.

Automated classification through the leveraging of Analytics offer a lot of promise. That approach typically out-performs traditional systems that rely on people to categorize records. On top of that, the consistent application of the rules makes the Governance rules defensible, which is really the whole point.

While not a panacea, it is a solid approach.

Another approach is the one that Alfresco is following right now. We’ve taken our rules engine and have extended it to automatically categorize and declare Content by rules setup by the Records Managers.

People can do their job just as they would normally. When placed in the system, the rules would look at the format, type, location, and other metadata components and apply the proper Governance rules.

Control remains with the Records Managers at all times while providing the consistent application of Governance across all Content that make the program defensible.

Talk to Me

SweetumsbnI’m going to be at ARMA next week attending sessions and talking to people. You can find me simply by going to the Alfresco booth. If I am not there, they’ll know where I am hiding. (I think they are putting a tracker on me)

I want you to tell me what YOU think will work. I want you to tell me if the approach Alfresco is taking will work or if it is a load of dingo’s kidneys. If not, tell me what you think WILL work. Good, bad, or ugly, I want to hear your opinions.

The odds of any single person or organization making RM simple on the first attempt is slim to none. If we don’t work together, the odds of the Content world solving this problem ever is zero.

If you aren’t going to be at ARMA, leave a comment below. Make yourself heard.

People are listening.

3 thoughts on “Making Records Management Simple at ARMA

  1. Laurence, I agree but I am amazed. When I said in 2007 that a standalone records management systems is a waste of time and effort and it should be a hidden part of a process and content platform so that the users won’t even notice its existence, I was flamed with accusations of ignorance and lack of expertize. What do I know about RM! We have been classifying and archiving content this way for the last ten years. But no, that is not a specialized RM system analysts said, so we won’t cover it.

    What works? For each piece of content in a process there is a well defined records class and the platform will store the received or sent content automatically in the archive according to those retention parameters including search fields. Yes, it is not the content that defines the retention criteria, but the process it is used in. I would not even encode those definitions in rules. As I said, content without process is waste.

    Information technology is truly turning into a circus, where the blind are advised by the clueless …

    Common sense and using one’s brain is not ‘a la mode’.

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    • Max, I wasn’t one of those saying that you were wrong. Most of the industry, but not all the Records people, learned over 10 years ago that a separate one doesn’t work…though having all records inside a single repository isn’t feasible in today’s mish-mash architectures. Of course, this isn’t the reason that Records Management has been an issue as the implementations typically have hidden that complexity from the user. It is all the remaining complexity that hurts people.

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