Making the case for records management in your organization

Records & information management professionals struggle to promote their field. Learn how a strong strategy, understanding budget & communicating value can help

Kris Brown

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Kris Brown

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June 23, 2022
Making the case for records management in your organization

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The results of the Pulse of the Industry Report 2022, conducted in partnership with RIMPA and surveying records and information management professionals in the Australia/New Zealand region, paint a unflattering picture for the industry.

Of particular concern:

  • A little over half of respondents work in non-managerial staff positions, with limited influence in the organization.
  • Half of respondents did not even know their budget for records management activities. For those in executive or managerial role, this number jumps to 60%.
  • Just over 40% of respondents said their information strategy was poor or needed improvement to better align with the business strategy.

Taken together, the results paint a picture an isolated workforce operating with limited information, focused on tasks that may not be—or at least may not be seen as—impactful to the wider business.

It’s clear that the profession has an image problem. Records and information management professionals need to focus on aligning their strategy with the business strategy, and then promoting how the former contributes to the growth of the business. They need to tell a better story.

In this post, we’ll discuss ways professionals can formulate a strategy, articulate it to the wider business, and make sure the numbers add up. We’ll also discuss whether technology can make this an easier sell.

Align your strategy with the business

A better information strategy starts with a better understanding of your business and the market context in which it operates. It’s crucial that information management professionals understand the wider business strategy, the organizational goals, and the drivers of success.

When creating a strategy, make sure you understand the current state of the business, regarding key issues, risks, and opportunities. Also understand the business drivers, especially those you might be able to influence. Then focus on the information management capabilities that are required to achieve these outcomes and outline a program of work to take the organization to the desired future state.

Know your numbers

It was concerning to see that half of respondents—and 60% of respondents in a managerial or executive role—stated they did not know their current annual budget for records management initiatives. If you don’t know the budget, how can you hope to convince stakeholders that the investment was worthwhile?

Work with your finance function and an executive sponsor to identify the required budget for your records and information management initiatives. But you don’t need to limit yourself to information management. Because you have done work on aligning yourself with the broader business strategy, it will become easier to find areas of overlap.

There will be a budget for security, privacy, legal and risk management. Demonstrate how records and information management can contribute to these activities, so you can gain a slice of their budget.

Don’t get lost in the weeds, focus on the business outcomes

When communicating the value of records and information management, professionals get caught up in the minutiae. They focus on the ‘how’. They really need to emphasize the ‘what’, the ‘why’ and, more importantly, the “so what?”

There are a variety of business outcomes that come from a successful records and information management program, they include:

  • Improved staff productivity. Team members are more empowered when they have the right information on-hand when they need it, rather than spending time searching or worse, recreating information they can’t locate.
  • Proper records management with a strong program of data minimization can also reduce costs. Data costs are not limited to storage or infrastructure, and they include replication costs, transfer and egress and management costs. Learn more in our in-depth post on data minimization.
  • Of course, the most well-known outcome is a reduction in risk, and an improvement in compliance. This outcome is sometimes used as a scare tactic, and works best when you can connect it with a real-world example, and put a dollar figure next to it, e.g. the number of records subject to a given regulation, and the fine associated with non-compliance.

As well as communicating and quantifying these broad benefits, you need to be able to tailor your message and explain how records and information management can impact a given department.

When discussing the benefits of data minimization with your director of IT, for example, talk about the storage cost savings. But when discussing the same subject with your chief operating officer, focus on productivity.

As the director of records and information management for one RecordPoint customer, a financial services firm, puts it, data minimization allows you to get rid of some haystacks.

Studies have shown the typical employee spends at least 20% of their time either looking for information or recreating it when they can’t find it— one study put the figure at 50%.

Valuable information becomes a needle in a haystack: we know it’s somewhere, but we have no idea where?

Data minimization, retention schedules and data disposition can reduce the number of records employees need to search through.

Even a small improvement in reducing the number of records that someone must search through can have a massive impact on your organization. Depending on the size of the organization, even a 20% reduction in employee waste could represent millions of dollars a year.

Technology can make this easier

With the volume of organizational data growing significantly, along with a corresponding increase in complexity, the scale of the problem is now beyond a manual approach. A third of respondents to the Pulse of the Industry 2022 survey said in their organization, information had grown between 50% and 100%. Making this challenge even more difficult, 60% of respondents said unstructured data represented more than half of their total data.

With the rise of privacy and freedom of information regulation around the world, customers and citizens are becoming empowered to request their personal data from organizations. Organizations who are still following a manual approach for their records and information management function will struggle to respond to such requests in a timely and cost-effective manner, with significant consequences for their business.

Records and information management professionals need to embrace technological tools if they want a hope of keeping up. Selling the value of records and information management to your teams becomes easier when you can demonstrate how machine learning allows you to classify millions of records—both structured and unstructured—with a consistently high level of accuracy.

A solution like RecordPoint, that allows for consistent classification, data minimization, in-place management and more, makes it easier to manage information efficiently and effectively, and demonstrate how your activity contributes to business outcomes.

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