April 30, 2012

ARMA Tri-Chapter Conference-RIM On A Shoestring

I had the pleasure of stopping by the ARMA Tri-Chapter Conference-RIM On A Shoestring, to see if there might be something blog-worthy.  Last year, I spoke on a panel.  In fair turnabout, I was in the audience for the talk given by R. Scott Murchison of Kaizen InfoSource LLC.  Scott has called on me to speak numerous times in the past, and after watching him present, I understand exactly why.  We both are hands-on experienced professionals who like to share practical tips we have learned from doing work for clients.  This is a direct contradiction to those on the other end of the spectrum, who call themselves, "thought leaders."  If you were looking for high lofty thoughts (think SNL Deep Thoughts), that may not apply at all to your real world Data Rules and Electronic Discovery challenges, then this talk was not for you.  If however, you appreciate real examples of issues and solutions, then you would have been paying attention and taking notes.  I thought it was definitely worthy of a blog post.

Without giving away all of Scott's tips, there were a few that stood out.  He explains that developing a workable retention schedule, is finding a good balance between legal requirements (warmed this lawyer's heart when he showed a slide entitled "Rules Matter") and business and practical needs.  For example, a policy with too many record categories causes users to use avoid making a selection, or simply defaulting to a category of "permanent."  When this happens retention policies are not readily applied and can not be adequately monitored.  On the other hand, too few retention categories, and you really have not helped your company  because every request for information becomes a search in a large repository or two.   Once again, retention policies cannot be readily and accurately applied and monitored.  Good luck finding what you need to respond to a legal or investigation hold.  The solution is to work with the users and select a workable and functional number of retention categories based on how people work.  There is also more to this method, around how to categorize the items, but I am not giving that one away here.

Scott also explained how he has dealt with both extreme types of workers:   1)  those who delete everything and, 2)  those who retain everything.   Both of these types of users disrupt, if not, destroy  even the best thought out record retention policies and practices.  In short, there has to be audits, and consequences.

Scott also gave a few good tips on how to "sell" information management and good ARMA practices to your organization.   His best tip was that your IT staff, would ultimately see this as a true asset.  A well designed record retention schedule can serve as a file plan for your company's computer network and information management applications.  It will make any of the RIM technology you deploy, work better.

This ARMA conference reminded me that the move away from paper and towards electronically stored information has brought about a reduction in the Records Management staff at many companies.  Sometimes the responsibilities and tasks are shifted to Legal, Compliance, or IT staff.  I think this is unfortunate.  There is significant value to having staff that understands how people store, retrieve, use, and delete, their business information.   I have found that when an experienced Records Manager is involved in the rollout of new technology, or new information policies and procedures, the projects go better and get finished.   I have seen far too many projects started by Legal or IT, that end up getting shelved because implementing the solutions properly, is challenging, if not impossible for these groups.  I do not believe this is mere coincidence.   IT and Legal have skills and expertise for what they do, but seldom are they experienced with the practices and procedures of the computer end-users, who are less concerned about technology or legal specs and more concerned with being able to perform their job tasks with minimal interruption.

If you have not been to a local or national ARMA meeting, I urge you to consider it.  They are about educating attendees about best practices for practical information management.   The  ARMA  website offers quite a bit of good information.

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