Fellows Forum Provides Snapshot of E-Records Management in Organizations

Article excerpt

While attendees of the 2012 Fellow of ARMA International (FAI) Forum held September 23 at the 2012 ARMA International Conference & Expo in Chicago revealed that organizations are still struggling with many aspects of electronic records management, the audience polling indicated one particularly positive shift.

The percentage of legal, IT, and risk/compliance representatives among the standing-room-only crowd of 200+ people that attended the forum is an indication that these key disciplines are increasingly coming together with records and information management (RIM) to address the management of records and information assets.

Together, these three disciplines constituted nearly 30% of all attendees -up from just over 10% of attendees at the 2011 FAI Forum. Of these, 12% were legal (up from 7.4%), 10% were IT (up from 2.9%), and 7% were risk/compliance (up from 0%). RIM attendees made up 68% of the total (down from 77.9%).

While this result is encouraging, attendee polling also revealed that there was just a slight increase in executive leadership's understanding of the importance of information governance-from 52.2% in 2011 to 54% in 2012-which the panelists found disappointing.

The forum, which was facilitated by April Dmytrenko, CRM, FAI, and Wendy Shade, FAI, produced many insights into the present state of managing electronic records in the attendees' organizations. For this article, several panelists summarized the perspectives they presented on various aspects of the theme, "Pushing Unconventional Change: Redefining RM Practices," and the conclusions they drew from the interactive discussions among panelists and attendees and the audience polls that followed. Each of the summaries begins with a redefining statement in italics.

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Few Practice Defensible E-Record Disposition Susan Cisco, Ph.D., CRM, FAI

Organizations have invested in technology to manage structured, semi-structured, and unstructured information; in retention schedules to establish retention periods for records; and in information lifecycles to determine retention for everything else. However, the actual disposition (deletion) of electronic records is still elusive for most organizations.

In fact, 81% of the attendees responded that their organizations are not systemically deleting electronic records according to their records retention schedule (unless records need to be preserved for legal holds). Just 15% said their organization is doing so, and 4% did not know.

The central business problem in the disposition of electronic records is that managing the entire information lifecycle in multiple applications and repositories is complex. Organizations may not know who owns the information, how it is used, or its value. To mitigate the unknowns, more than half of the participants expect to apply to electronic records a pre-approval process with required signoffs by stakeholders currently used for disposing of boxed physical records stored off-site.

Though in the minority, there are strong voices among RM professionals who think applying the paper disposition process to electronic records will not work due to their large volumes and disparate repositories. According to Gimmal Group's Brian Tuemmler, it takes one employee more than five years to apply retention and activate a pre-approval process to dispose of records in one shared drive. This suggests that a pre-approval disposition process may be impractical and unrealistic due to the sheer volume of electronic records.

Conclusion

Lack of appropriate technology is no longer a major barrier to defensible electronic record disposition. The biggest obstacles are associated with people and process, including determining:

* Best practices for applying retention to duplicates and to valuable informational material that may be useful for three or more years

* Whether notification]pre-approval is necessary for defensible disposition

* Best practice for initiating the event "triggers" that start the retention clock for event-based retention periods

* How to get people to make the behavioral changes required for defensible electronic record disposition

Digital Data Preservation Plans Are Rare Fred Diers, CRM, FAI

Compliant and sustainable retention programs must incorporate authenticated preservation and disposition of object database management systems' (ODBMS) data with effective controls in place. …