Picture this: playing a strategic role in your organization: expanding your IT knowledge, using GARP[R] tools to assess your program, and communicating the results and action plan to senior management will help them picture you and your program as strategically important to your organization's success.
Computer software industry (Planning)
Enns, Lois
Pub Date:
Name: Information Management Journal Publisher: Association of Records Managers & Administrators (ARMA) Audience: Trade Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Business; Computers and office automation industries; Library and information science Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2011 Association of Records Managers & Administrators (ARMA) ISSN: 1535-2897
Date: July-August, 2011 Source Volume: 45 Source Issue: 4
Event Code: 200 Management dynamics; 220 Strategy & planning Computer Subject: Company business management; Company business planning
SIC Code: 7372 Prepackaged software
Company Name: Microsoft Corp.; Microsoft Corp. Ticker Symbol: MSFT
Geographic Scope: United States

Accession Number:
Full Text:

Some estimates are that up to 80% of an organization's electronic information is found in the form of unstructured content, or files created using desktop applications, such as Microsoft Word, Microsoft Outlook, or Adobe Acrobat as cited in Province of British Columbia, 2011. Unlike structured content found in databases, unstructured content does not have built-in physical or intellectual controls.

Files are created using numerous applications and stored on any number of storage media (e.g., personal computers, servers, external hard drives, flash memory devices, and DVDs). Initially, organizations may implement policies and procedures to provide staff with direction on how to manage unstructured content using the customizable folder structures available through the software operating system, but, over time, a more sophisticated software solution is often required.

Understanding Software Information Management Systems

Software information management systems for unstructured content leverage and extend the file properties embedded in each file by the native application and the operating system. These file properties include file name, date created, date modified, owner, author, company name, format extension, and others, totaling up to 300 properties for a single format.

A selection of file properties are typically exposed to the user's view in the operating system's detailed file listing, or the properties can be viewed and edited from within the application, usually from the file menu. File properties are also referred to as metadata, or data that describes the content, context, and structure of an information object and its management through time.

By using a database to extract and add to existing metadata, software information management systems create a structured environment for unstructured content. For example, a location file property tracks where a file physically resides in electronic storage, an access control property tracks who can view or edit the file, and so on.

Since there are numerous applications and file formats serving many business needs, software information management systems are customized to support specific types of activities, including images and scans, document libraries, e-mail, or web content. From a records and information management (RIM) perspective, these software management systems are often discussed in terms of document, records, and content management software systems.

Document Management Systems

Document management software systems might better be called digital object management systems, as there are a number of types of systems focusing on different types of files in addition to documents. These systems typically provide services, such as capture, indexing, versioning, search, storage, retrieval, collaboration, workflow, publication, distribution, and security.

Document management systems may be customized to provide these services for a specific type of files. For example, a digital asset management system provides services that suit digital images (e.g., photographs or videos); a web content system supports web pages containing text, photographs, and videos; and an e-mail management system focuses on e-mails with or without attachments.

Records Management Systems

Records management software systems include most or all of the services provided by document management systems, but they also provide lifecycle management for the digital objects. Conventionally, lifecycle management means disposition, or authorized, audited disposal, based on retention rules, often leveraging a classification-based approach to object management. Lifecycle management is beginning to extend beyond disposition to long-term preservation of digital objects.

Some systems can automate event-or time-based PDF renditions for files, and RIM professionals are considering how records management systems with this functionality might be extended for use as a digital archive. Regardless, a conventional records management software system represents an extension to a document management system by providing automated disposition. This is why the acronym EDRMS, which stands for electronic document and records management system, is commonly applied.

Enterprise Content Management Systems

Enterprise content management software systems represent sets of individual software systems that are designed to work together. An organization may buy one or more of these software systems together or over time, often from a single vendor. Enterprise content management systems have what are called basic content services, which use the common metadata associated with an object to leverage the specialty services of each individual system.

For example, an object may be edited and finalized in a document management system and then pushed into a web content management system for Internet publication: revisions can be made on the web side or on the document side, and automatic synching ensures the file is updated. In some cases, the individual systems may work relatively autonomously, and the enterprise content management integration provides federated search, which is simultaneous searching of multiple repositories, to enable enterprise-wide information discovery has created definition from various resources.

While document and records management systems are fully functioning in many organizations--and have been for up to two decades--enterprise content management systems are relatively new and often not fully integrated.

Getting a Seat at the Table

Surprisingly, determining what kind of information management system (or systems) an organization needs is a decision that is seldom left to RIM professionals. In his book, Records Management." Making the Transition from Paper to Electronic, David O. Stephens, CRM, quotes a Forrester study that concludes RIM professionals are losing their influence to information technology (IT) as electronic RIM emerges, and that "IT- not RIM--plays a dominant role in electronic RIM projects."

In most organizations, IT commands a larger budget, more staff, and higher levels of management engagement and influence than does RIM, with the chief information officer positioned on par or slightly lower than the chief executive officer and chief financial officer. Because of these arrangements, it is often difficult for RIM professionals to participate in, or influence, key decisions regarding information management systems.

Given RIM professionals' unique body of knowledge and experience in this area, this is at odds with an organization's long-term need to manage its information assets and a RIM professional's mandate to provide information services. In the worst case scenario, the RIM professional is given all of the accountability for information compliance, but none of the tools needed to achieve it.

In response, RIM professionals often find themselves making the case to be included in technology decisions that will result in content that they are then expected to manage. Depending on the organization, there may be any number of barriers to inclusion, ranging from the political (not enough clout) to the cultural (not enough interest).

Often the RIM professional takes the path of least resistance and works hard to develop successful RIM projects to build support within the organization. Although this task-oriented approach may result in completed work, job satisfaction, and the long-term relationships that lead to participation, taking a bottom-up approach may take too much time. Therefore, RIM professionals need to take a top-down strategy, which positions them in the key decisionmaking group.

Leveraging GARP[R] Maturity Model

One of the tools available to the RIM professional is ARMA International's Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles[R] (GARP[R]) Information Governance Maturity Model (Maturity Model). (See both at www.arma.org/garp.)

Like the more widely known Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), GARI[R] comprises eight principles that define the necessary policy and procedures for an effective RIM program. The Maturity Model provides a methodology for assessing an organization's RIM capacity, based on five rankings: Level 1(sub-standard), Level 2 (in development), Level 3 (essential), Level 4 (proactive), and Level 5 (transformational).

Using the GARP[R] Maturity Model, RIM professionals can assess the effectiveness of their RIM programs. Using the results of the GARP[R] assessment, RIM professionals have an opportunity to create a GARP[R] report for presentation to senior management that describes the current state and strategic possibilities of their RIM programs.

The report should focus on the big picture, indicating the strengths and weaknesses of the RIM program and suggesting a plan for improvement in specific areas, including the resources required. Since senior managers may be unfamiliar with components of the RIM program, the report also offers an opportunity to build awareness and understanding of basic RIM concepts in a concise and non-dogmatic fashion.

The GARP[R] report also provides RIM professionals with an opportunity to build relationships across the organization at an operational level. If an organization already has a RIM governance group, the Maturity Model provides the group with an opportunity to provide feedback and direction on the RIM program and to officially endorse the report. If the organization does not have such a group, the report provides an opportunity to create a provisional group that may fill this role in the future.

Most RIM governance groups include representatives from legal services, risk management, information technology, change management, and operational units, ideally including key decision makers and influencers. By presenting the report and inviting discussion on its findings, RIM professionals learn about operational areas of interest or concern and build support for their RIM programs.

Ultimately, the feedback meeting provides RIM professionals with an opportunity to develop strategic relationships with business owners, based on points of common interest, while test-driving the strategic report prior to presenting to senior management. In the best case scenario, the participants at the feedback session report back on the initiative to their senior managers, making them more receptive to the report, based on the knowledge that their staff have participated in its development.

Presenting the Assessment to Senior Management

With the GARP[R] report now updated to include operational feedback, RIM professionals must determine how best to present the final report to senior management. The presentation may feature slides, or it may follow the format of the report, with copies provided for reference. Although some of the report findings may be negative, in announcing these results, RIM professionals build trust and provide assurances that, with the appropriate support, they will be able to fill any gaps.

If possible, any report recommendations are adopted by the end of the meeting, and a clear plan of action is decided.

Overall, this allows RIM professionals to display their ability to provide a strategic, corporate vision of interest to each senior manager. Following the GARP[R] report adoption, RIM professionals should provide an update to the operational group and then post it to their organization's intranet.

Leveraging Documentation

Another strategic approach to RIM development is through using documentation. In many organizations, policy and procedures vehicles can be quite out-of-date. Like the GARP[R] report, the process of updating RIM policy and procedures provides an opportunity for discussion and dissemination of RIM ideas, concepts, and requirements, since materials must be submitted to the appropriate governing body (or provisional group) for review and adoption.

Developing policy and procedures also allows RIM professionals to define areas of control where their participation is required. For example, they can indicate that technology acquisitions result in content, which then has to be managed through the life cycle. Through this process, the RIM professionals can claim an appropriate role in areas of interest by showing they have something to contribute.

Although this may not mean they are automatically given a role, this can be another step toward participation. In addition, once the policy and procedures are approved RIM professionals have an opportunity to launch the materials across the organization and to leverage this content in future discussions.

Painting a Picture of Success

Many times a RIM professional's attempts to participate in technology discussions are met with a blanket denial. Perhaps there is a need to look at why this denial is so automatic:

* Is the organization aware of RIM as a body of knowledge?

* Does the organization understand the RIM program's goals and objectives?

* Are the RIM goals and objectives in keeping with the organization's?

* Are the RIM professional's assumptions about his or her role in keeping with those of colleagues?

* Does the RIM professional have a thorough understanding of technology?

If the answer to these and similar questions is "no," perhaps it's time to look at the situation more strategically and figure out a plan of action. Picture a situation where senior managers are aware of what RIM is and what it can do for their business; where senior managers are aware of the program's goals and objectives and how they tie in with the organization's; where other staff are aware that the RIM professional has access to information they can use; and where the RIM professional can trade acronyms with an IT analyst without blinking an eye.

Taking a strategic approach to RIM program development can make that picture a reality. END

Lois Enns can be contacted at lenns@surrey.ca. See her bio on page 46.
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Copyright 2011 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.