What do we call ourselves?

Records managers have more data responsibilities outside the traditional records management function than ever. They need to argue for a seat at the table.

Kris Brown
Kris Brown

VP of Product Management

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Kris Brown
Kris Brown

VP of Product Management

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What do we call ourselves?

Records managers have more data responsibilities outside of the traditional records management function, but they aren’t using this increase in importance to argue for greater budget or a seat at the table.

This is according to records and information management professionals surveyed for the Pulse of the Industry Report 2022. Previous coverage of the report has focused on the problems they faced selling the function within their organization and securing budget, and the challenges professionals faced as more data sources were adopted without their input.

But let’s take a step back: what is records management in 2022? Is it possible the challenges with budget and internal education are only overcome when we stop thinking of ourselves as “records managers”? What if we start to think of ourselves—and more importantly sell ourselves—as data managers, or asset managers?

Maybe what is needed is a rebrand. After all, the results of the Report showed records and information management professionals are starting to have greater responsibility for enterprise data, especially the following activities:

  • Data privacy and security (43% of respondents)
  • Data governance (49% of respondents)
  • Data migration (39% of respondents)

It should be noted that just over 88% of respondents are still responsible for physical records, what many of us think of as “traditional” records management. This is a task presumably made very difficult during a period where offices shifted to a remote work and now hybrid model.

Data is an asset…

There are fundamentally three assets that a company or an organization must possess: people, finances, and data. Take away any of those and your company is no more, or it is at least crippled.

Because we understand the importance of people and financial capital, we have roles like “chief financial officer” and “head of human resources”. But the same isn’t true for data. Yes, we have security and compliance roles, but those are focused on protecting infrastructure and people, with data protected almost as side-effect. We’ve never really considered a corresponding role to steward and safeguard an organization’s data asset through its entire lifecycle.

When we start discussing data as an asset, suddenly the idea of companies adopting five new data sources without a plan for how to manage their data starts to seem a little strange. Would your company hire five new divisions of workers without a plan for what they would do? Would you go to your investors (or lean on the taxpayer) for new funding without saying what the money will pay for?

In the Pulse of the Industry Report 2022, 40% of records and information managers said their strategy was poor in how well it aligned to that of the organization. Only half of respondents knew the budget for records and information management activities. Maybe what is needed is a bottom-up rethink of the role and its value.

…and a risk

Understanding your organization’s key drivers and linking this to records and information management initiatives can be a powerful way to influence senior management and gain support. Another key driver which can be used to gain support and additional resources for critical records and information management initiatives is risk.

Have you analyzed what organizational risks can be mitigated or lowered by improving records and information management? How can you promote this to senior management? Does your organization have a risk and audit committee that you can align with? Are you familiar with internal and external audit reports and reviews? These often provide insights into records and information issues and risks that can be turned into opportunities.

Don’t forget emerging privacy regulations

We’re right in the middle of a profound, global shift in how we think about personal data and a right to privacy. Gartner predicts 75% of the world’s population will have its data covered under modern privacy regulations by the end of 2024. Organizations collecting or processing individuals’ and consumers’ data (i.e. almost every organization) need to have someone whose focus is on safeguarding this asset and ensuring it is accessed and used according to applicable regulations.

Your organization might have a security team or a Chief Privacy Officer in charge of these elements of company strategy. But they don’t have someone managing the complete end-to-end lifecycle of data. Or maybe they do, and they don’t realize it. Have you talked to them about how your records management—or data asset management—skills can help them meet their goals? You might suddenly see an increase in budget, and in your influence within the company.

It’s time to take a seat at the table

We Asset Managers or Data Managers should take advantage of the increased role we’re already playing within our organizations. When was the last time you marketed the results of your initiatives? You should make the case for your role’s importance, but don’t stress the “records” part of the title.

You might find yourself involved in these key initiatives, whether setting company strategy, or selecting or configuring compliant SaaS tools, and in command of the budget to match. Maybe “records managers” will never get a seat at the table, but maybe that’s OK.

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