Records – Do They Matter?

I originally posted this on AIIM’s Information Zen site (now defunct), but thought I’d update it a bit and repost it here…

Leaving legal aspects out of the discussion for the moment, does it really matter whether or not content is a record?  If content is not declared a record, is that content less valid or valuable than if it were considered a record?  I am referring to the business value of content.  I am referring to an organization’s ability to leverage the content in order to reduce wasted effort, to increase customer satisfaction, to drive profitability, to reduce expenses, and to keep everyone’s butt out of the slammer.

If I do take legal issues into consideration, does the “recordness” of content make a difference, provided I can back up everything I say about the content’s use, access, authenticity, and provenance?  Personally, I don’t think it should; I know it does, but that’s just because too many people out there haven’t fully caught on to this new invention called the computer yet.

If within the context of discovery, an organization is told to produce certain content, said organization cannot reply “but we never declared it as a record” as a rationale for not including it in the discovery.  So even from a legal point of view, the “recordness” of content is becoming, in my opinion, less critical.  I believe that as we grow more and more comfortable with electronic content, content’s status as a record will become less important.  The fact is, with the proper tools and procedures we can secure, audit, and authenticate non-record (electronic) content every bit as well as if the content were declared a record.  With the proper tools we can manage the lifecycle of any piece of content very effectively.  Let’s face it; the lifecycle of content is not very complicated: get it, use it, dispose of it.

If the “recordness” of content is becoming less important, do we still need Records Managers?  We do, but I think we need to change their titles, job descriptions, and the amount of authority they have in organisations.  There is some interesting discussion about the RIM profession happening on the ARMA Linkedin group and on the AIIM ERM Community site.


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