Over the past two decades, there has been an increasing focus on the concept of strategic alignment. It has arisen from two viewpoints: focus on the customer and the need to unify disparate technology. The focus on the customer has been, beyond a doubt, the primary driver for the implementation of the strategic alignment focus in organizations. Customers, whether internal or external, are seen as the reason for the existence of the organization. Satisfying the needs of customers helps to define the structure, processes, products, and values that an organization needs to create and foster to be successful.
No less important in the age of computerization is the ability to structure technological resources so they support this customer-based focus. This is not merely an effort to streamline software applications or to implement enterprise resource planning. Rather, it is both the leveraging of existing resources and the judicious planning for future technologies aimed at achieving the goals that are derived from customer-centered objectives.
For the most part, records and information management (RIM) has been an innocent bystander of this ongoing movement. Only accidentally has records management been a part of the strategic alignment effort. But that is no longer an acceptable situation. With the increasing recognition of the importance of good RIM--especially driven by the effects of poor regulatory compliance and litigation- records managers have an excellent opportunity to become active participants in the organization's strategic alignment efforts.
Strategic Alignment Defined
So, what is strategic alignment? Simply, strategic alignment is the link between an organization's overall goals and the goals of each of the units that contribute to the success of those overall goals. At the core, it means that records managers must look at both the short-term and long-term objectives of the records management program in the context of the organization's customer-centric focus. This should be a dynamic process with a quarterly or annual review of the goals of the records management program in the context of the changing strategy of the organization.
Understand the Strategy
To ensure that the records management program's goals are truly in alignment with the overall organizational strategy requires a serious effort on the part of the records manager to understand all aspects of the strategy. One helpful way to understand the overall context of strategic alignment is the following sequence:
Market Conditions [right arrow] Strategy [right arrow]
Values [right arrow] Organizational Structure [right arrow]
Systems [right arrow] Staff [right arrow] Style
In this model, presented by Richard Seaman in a 1995 Compensation and Benefits Review article, the records manager must understand the market conditions facing the organization. From that perspective, it should be relatively straightforward to see the resulting strategy, values, and organizational structure that are required to meet those market conditions. Then records managers need to understand how the company's systems support the strategy. Finally, the focus turns to staff and the style of operation.
On this last point, the records manager can focus on several questions:
* Who is doing what? Are all the processes of the records management program clearly mapped with assigned responsibilities? If not, the first order of business should be to fully document all the records management processes and link them to specific functions (not individuals) responsible for their accomplishment.
* Who is adding value? This is a key element in the strategic alignment exercise. The records manager must be able to document how people, functions, processes, and such simple tasks as retention scheduling, information storage and retrieval, and the authorized disposition of information add value to the ongoing strategic thrust of the organization. …