15 July 2010

Last Limerick of GARP -- Disposition

Chimerical search for stability
By keeping all docs is futility.
The records we keep
Can bury us deep.
Not assets? Then they're liability.

01 July 2010

Managing Records with Technology

In 1989, companies called their computer departments MIS – Management Information Systems. According to Wikipedia, the term arose when computers first analyzed vast amounts of business information and reported it to corporate leadership in a meaningful, revealing way. It was common parlance, at least through the mid-1990s.

Today, one rarely hears of MIS. The accepted jargon is “IT”, or Information Technology. When Keane Inc. advertises “We get IT done”, no further explanation is required.

This evolution from MIS to IT may be merely a matter of nomenclature, but I suspect there is significant substance. When computers first proliferated throughout American businesses, starting in the 1960s, they were enabling tools. The first word processors were extensions of the electric typewriter. Spreadsheet software automated accountants’ paper work sheets. Computers and their programs formed workbenches to get traditional jobs done better and faster.

In the same way, Management Information Systems were tools. They helped business leaders make intelligent decisions by manipulating data in ways previously unattainable. Under MIS, data warehouses and data mining extracted useful, perceptive reports. Managers still guided their businesses at a very granular, tactical level. The new tools helped them do that better, quicker and more reliably.

Somewhere on our way to the Millennium, this situation evolved. Computers got better, faster, and cheaper, and software designers addressed a growing number of business processes. They wrote programs that automated more and more tactical decisions.

Businesses’ nature changed. Whenever there was severe economic pressure, such as the recession of 1992, the middle managers responsible for tactical decisions got pink slips. They weren’t needed any more, their responsibilities taken over by computers. Organizational hierarchies flattened. Computers made tactical calls, leaving the big cheeses (sans secretaries) to make the strategic decisions.

Concurrently, MIS became IT with the emphasis on technology more than management.

How does this apply to Records & Information Management?

We are a bit late to the party. From the 1960s to the 1990s, when general business went digital and document workers pursued the “paperless office”, records managers persistently plied their paper-based profession. RIM prophets sounded the clarion, but for a variety of reasons, few practitioners responded until the middle of the last decade.

In 2010, RIM automation may be analogous to the state of general business computing in the 1980s. Software automates the tasks, but not the management of records. RIM administration remains labor intensive.

In the future, software may analyze content, compare it to laws/regulations, evaluate usage patterns, and create reliable retention schedules, all automatically. Recent releases of contextual analytics point in that direction.

But for now, management is still a major part of RIM, and our tools are MIS. We’re not ready to abandon that to IT, just yet.

The Limericks of GARP -- Retention

Did you know that GARP's point of Retention
Deserves a lot more than mere mention
Retention brings plaudits
Right after the audits
Avoiding both guilt and detention