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RIM and IT professionals disagree about who is responsible for ERM.

Just as electronic records management (ERM) has grown as a global issue for businesses and governments, so has the disparity between records and information management (RIM), business, and IT managers' perceptions of RIM's role in ERM.

A recent study commissioned by ARMA International and conducted by Forrester Consulting surveyed 75 business and 75 IT professionals to better understand the market needs and the reality of electronic records management

In the study, several areas were identified where groups disagreed, including who has responsibility for developing ERM policies and determining business needs and user requirements. The study findings also revealed that neither business nor IT fully grasps the role of ERM in compliance regulations and legislation.

The finding confirmed what many records managers already knew--or suspected: IT is driving ERM. ARMA attributes this largely to the shift of ERM away from a standalone technology to a component of enterprise content management (ECM) suites. Responsibility for selecting ERM vendors rests with IT.

IT may be driving ERM, but to be effective it needs to understand the RIM principles and compliance issues involved. RIM principles that are at the heart of the basic functions integral to managing electronic records include the following:

* managing the retention period, which ties in with the records retention schedule

* initiating and controlling holds or freezes (legal, audit)

* managing ultimate purging, including approvals

* managing migration (copy, transfer) to new media/systems

Despite this obvious link to RIM principles, business and IT said that IT has final responsibility for developing ERM policies. Only 21 percent of IT and 31 percent of business saw RIM as having final responsibility. By contrast, 73 percent of RIM professionals believe it is their responsibility.

There are a few possible explanations for this gap. First, there may not be a shared understanding of what comprises "electronic records management." For the purposes of this study, "electronic records management" was defined as electronic information in any format which is created, received, and managed and that has business, legal, compliance, financial, operational, or historical value that is intended to be kept as evidence and reference information by an organization or person. Message archiving is the hottest area in ERM, yet IT does not tend to view it in the context of ERM.

A second possible reason is that RIM may not be fully aware of all ERM-related activity within the enterprise because RIM is often not an integral part of the process. The research also raises the question as to whether RIM professionals grasp just how much ERM may change their reporting relationships in the near future.

Most of the business and IT managers interviewed said records management roles were merging with IT and/or compliance and legal.

RIM, on the other hand, reported that ERM has not significantly changed its reporting relationship; it continues to report predominantly to administration. This conflicting picture may be at least partly a reflection that RIM is not highly visible or understood by IT and business--records management is more than a records center, which may be outsourced. The RIM perspective also included a higher percentage of government, which typically reports to administration.

Regardless of whether RIM agrees with business and IT's perceptions, it must deal with them. In short, the study findings indicated that

* It is critical that RIM be proactive in demonstrating the value of RIM to IT or risk being relegated to managing only paper and microforms.

* There is a major need for RIM professionals to educate business and IT on the difference between archiving and ERM.

* There is a major opportunity for RIM professionals to educate business and IT on compliance regulations specific to their industries and the role of ERM in compliance.

* RIM must be part of a multidisciplinary team addressing ERM, including IT, legal, compliance, and others.

Being successful in these efforts will require significant changes for RIM professionals. First and foremost, it will require that RIM professionals recognize that career development opportunities lie in building IT skills and applying ERM to compliance.

Based on the study findings, ARMA recommends that RIM professionals take these steps in the following areas:


* Develop IT skills, focusing on ECM architecture and skills.

* Leverage subject matter expertise in establishing RIM policies within the IT organization.

* Develop skills in message archiving to communicate how it does and does not address ERM.

* Build IT awareness of RIM professionals' skills in preserving records, identifying critical records, classifying records, and handling metadata.


* Proactively seek positions to understand and get involved with the enterprise's ECM strategy and implementations.

* Proactively seek to be involved in message archiving projects.

* Seek to make IT aware of the challenges in ERM implementations.

* Communicate to IT the difference between archiving and ERM.

* Proactively seek to form and be on multidisciplinary teams addressing ERM and including IT, legal, compliance, and others.

RIM professionals can be the captain of their own destiny, but it clearly requires stepping outside the comfort zone for many. As one RIM professional stated, "Don't wait to be asked to the table, pull up the chair and sit down" It's time to take the initiative.


ARMA International thanks the following vendors for helping to underwrite this important research, which will be used to develop the programs necessary to prepare RIM professionals for the future:

* Accutrac

* FileNet

* Hummingbird



* Iron Mountain

* Open Text

* Oracle

* Smead

* Tower Software

RELATED ARTICLE: Electronic records survey highlights similar issues.

A recent survey on electronic records management conducted by Cohasset Associates Inc. and sponsored by ARMA International and AIIM International also showed that IT is driving ERM. Of the survey's 2,200 RIM respondents, 71 percent reported that IT is primarily responsible for the day-to-day management of electronic records. That survey also revealed some disturbing trends with regard to how well managed electronic records are and the potential risk they present to their organizations.

With the increasing costs of electronic discovery and recent compliance regulations and legislation, now more than ever, it is critical that organizations at the very least establish--and consistently apply--records retention schedules for all records, including electronic ones. Yet 47 percent of the respondents in the ARMA/AIIM/Cohasset survey reported that their organizations do not have comprehensive records retention schedules that include electronic records. Furthermore, 38 percent of those that do said those schedules are not generally followed.

This may well indicate a "major disconnect between those responsible for overseeing the application of an organization's retention schedules (records managers) and those responsible for the day-today management of electronic records (IT)," wrote Cohasset.

The concern lies in the fact that IT often does not have the skills necessary to manage electronic records beyond the technology. Only one-third of the survey respondents said they believe that their IT department really understands the concept of "life cycle" regarding the management of the organization's electronic records.

Once again, the need for RIM to become more proactive in this area is clear.

To access an executive summary of the ARMA/AIIM/Cohasset survey, visit www,

Editor's note: ARMA members can access the e-Records Advisory Team recommendations and view the entire Forrester presentation at

Cynthia Launchbaugh is Editor in of The Information Management Journal. She may be contacted at
COPYRIGHT 2004 Association of Records Managers & Administrators (ARMA)
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2004, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:records and information management, Information Technology, electronic records management
Author:Launchbaugh, Cynthia
Publication:Information Management Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2004
Previous Article:Case Studies in Ethics.
Next Article:Catalyst or cataclysm?

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