Integrating an ERDMS in an IT Environment: As the U.S. EPA's Experience Illustrates, Effective Electronic Records Management Solution Must Consider Yesterday's, Today's, and Tomorrow's Systems. (Lessons Learned)

Article excerpt

At the Core

This article

* defines the key issues and strategies organizations must address to adopt an integrated ERM system

* discusses implementing an enterprise-wide, integrated electronic records and document management system (ERDMS)

* examines the EPA's ERDMS strategy

Many modern enterprises have decided to acquire electronic records management (ERM) capability. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) recent experience highlights the key issues and strategies that enterprises must address in order to successfully adopt an enterprise-wide ERM system.

Although they originate from a U.S. federal agency, the issues and strategies examined in this case study are applicable to other non-federal and private sector enterprises as well.

The factors motivating an enterprise decision to acquire ERM capability vary and include:

* laws and regulations that dictate scrupulous enterprise records management

* enterprise architecture initiatives and capital planning and investment management processes that illuminate the potential corporate weakness posed by the absence of an ERM system

* fiscal or political crises such as bankruptcy proceedings or public scandals that spotlight severe records and information management (RIM) deficiencies

* intensive litigation that demonstrates the crippling costs of legal discovery arising from poor recordkeeping

* natural or manmade disasters that result in committing new resources to vital records protection and continuity of operations planning

Where E-Records Come From

An enterprise may begin with the naive assumption that it can simply acquire and deploy one of the many capable, commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) ERM systems available in the marketplace today. However, this assumption may be quickly dashed because electronic records (e-records) originate from the enterprise's existing or legacy information technology (IT) environment. According to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) definition, a record is "information created, received, and maintained as evidence and information by an organization or person, in pursuance of legal obligations or in the transaction of business." Legacy systems can include:

* electronic document management (EDM), including workflow applications

* electronic mail

* correspondence management

* image management

* Web content management

* database management

* case management

* customer relations management

* word-processing, spreadsheet, and database applications

Each legacy system in the enterprise's IT environment represents a multimillion-dollar investment and generates e-records. While managers understand that not all digital files in legacy systems are records, they know that some percentage, however small, are records. As many managers know, these e-records must find their way into an ERM system in order to protect the enterprise against risk and to facilitate efficient future access and retrieval of important information. Consequently, ERM systems integration and compatibility must be considered for legacy systems. Managers also may recognize that any future information system must be designed so that the e-records it generates will come under the ERM system's control.

Therefore, a key issue when acquiring an ERM system is how it will integrate with legacy and future information management systems. An enterprise that has invested millions of dollars in a smoothly functioning e-mail or word processing application must ensure that any planned ERM system integrates with its legacy systems.

Additional strategic and tactical issues include whether to embrace a single enterprise-wide ERM solution or to allow multiple interoperable solutions. Factors that will influence these decisions include product selection factors, the need and ability to organize enterprise records in the electronic realm, system user-friendliness issues, the need for employees to acquire the skills necessary to operate the ERMS, and planning for rollout. …