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The writing on the wall.

At the Core

This article examines:

* The changing role of the CIO

* The opportunities associated with the integration of RIM and IS

Have you ever wished you could see into the future? Could know what was going to happen tomorrow so that you knew the decisions to make today? Actually, you can. The trick is to look at what futurists call the "visible" future. It is the writing on the wall that is there for anyone to see -- if they take the time to look.

To get a clearer glimpse of the future for records and information management, for example, take a look at the changing expectations for the chief information officer (CIO) and information technology (IT) in both public and private sectors. They are excellent indicators of what is increasingly being expected of others involved in managing records and information.

"By 2003, intellectual capital -- delivered through the leverage of knowledge management and information management -- will be the primary way in which businesses measure their value." So predicted Gartner in its 2000 report "IT Management Scenario: Navigating Uncertainty." This prediction portends a major shift in the role of IT and the CIO -- a shift that has taken more than 50 years to occur.

Years ago, when the potential of the then-emerging computer was being discussed, there were those few -- Peter Drucker among them -- who contended that its reach would go far beyond the military and science and into business, where it would revolutionize the work of top management, with its greatest impact on business policy, business strategy, and business decisions.

States Drucker in his book Management Challenges for the 21st Century: "The revolutionary impacts so far have been where none of us then anticipated them: on OPERATIONS .... Top executives have not used the new technology because it has not provided the information they need for their own tasks."

Information technology has centered on collecting, storing, transmitting, and presenting data -- or on the "T" in IT. That focus is shifting, however, to the "I" or the meaning of information and its purpose. It should come as no surprise then that CEOs are looking for new skills and perspectives from their CIOs.

"Three or five years ago, most IT organizations and CIOs were expected to deliver the technology that enabled the business to perform the basics of business functions," stated then-CIO Keith Holcomb in a roundtable discussion facilitated by CIO Magazine at Giga Information Group's IT Forum 2001. "The technology has evolved to the point, now where most of those basic systems touch everything that we do, and where the technology is now taking us is at the business level."

Changing Priorities

Relationship management, business partnerships, sourcing strategies, and visionary leadership have quickly become CIOs' highest priorities. "IT knowledge is almost a liability" says Gartner research director Michael Gerrard in the CIO article "Free to Lead." "What's more important now is an ability for CIOs to develop a sense of strategy and to implement sourcing solutions."

E-business has been the primary catalyst for much of this shift. Following a survey of 1,400 CIOs, Gartner concluded that "the emerging need for e-business is changing the way in which executive managers perceive CIOs and the CIO's place in the executive boardroom."

The Gartner survey revealed that in midsize and large enterprises a new executive was appearing, one with responsibilities that combine business and technology. This new CIO's role is strategic, "focused on shaping top-level business needs and expectations across the enterprise" instead of technology implementation.

As this new CIO role takes shape, new opportunities emerge for others within the information management and systems organization. The actual management of information technology in many enterprises is falling to an IT deputy, often called a chief technology officer. With this position providing ample support at the technology level, CIOs are free to focus on the enterprise perspective and provide the type of strategic guidance needed and expected by visionary CEOs.

Underlying this significant shift is an increasing realization and understanding at the executive level of the true power of information. It's not just about data, it's about knowledge and wisdom. How well an enterprise manages and leverages the information it has within its people and its records can have a direct impact on how competitive it is in a continually changing and intensely competitive marketplace.

It's All About Information

As organizations look at managing information to gain a strategic advantage within their industries, the pressure is on at all levels of the organization to make information management a business imperative. This focus on managing information is prompting another emerging trend, one that unites everything having to do with the management of information. In these cases, the CEOs are looking to their CIOs to manage the technology as well as the information.

The challenge to CIOs is to broaden their perspective from information technology or systems (IS) to a more integrated information management. Too often information management is narrowly viewed in terms of the technology. What is commonly missing in the IS organization is an understanding of how to manage the information beyond storing it.

What these CEOs and CIOs have realized is that records management provides another important perspective to the information management big picture. Unfortunately, records management has also traditionally been tied to the medium -- specifically paper -- as opposed to the information. The role records management can and should play in managing information enterprise-wide consequently has gone unnoticed in many organizations and even by some records managers. Slowly but surely, records management has been forced to reinvent itself, moving away from being medium-focused to being information-focused.

Some forward-thinking CEOs have embraced the importance of information management and the interrelated roles of IT/IS and RIM and have consequently brought the two together under the leadership of the CIO. That was certainly the case a few years ago at American Security Insurance, according to CIO Tom Smith, CRM, CCIP. The retirement of the company's records manager offered an excellent opportunity to revisit the role of the records management program. The CEO determined that records management and IT are both about information, explains Smith, so it made more sense to have it all "under one hat."

"It was kind of a rude awakening," confesses Smith. "We learned it wasn't just about back-up tapes and storage. We started asking why do we do this?"

The executive director and management committee of Covington & Burling, a large law firm headquartered in Washington, D.C., had similar thoughts. According to CIO Stephen Roberts, about three years ago they decided to "unite everything having to do with information." Among other things, the move reflected the firm's recognition that records management is a critical element in the management of information. The fully integrated department, which reports to Roberts, comprises five functions, including the corporate library, IT, and records and information management. "We're all part of making the business run smoothly, operating efficiently, and working smart," explains Roberts. "We focus on the whole process."

Iris Fisher, the manager of corporate records and information management for Dupont, began lobbying for the realignment years ago as the manufacturing giant underwent a general reorganization. At the time, the records management program reported to the legal department. Fisher, however, recognized early on the bigger, more strategic role her department could play in the information management effort enterprise-wide. When talk of the reorganization surfaced, she began lobbying to align records management with IT.

"IT is truly global. That's where you can really impact the organization today," says Fisher. "We have been fighting the battle forever that records management is about more than avoiding litigation. Focusing on the business and the business risk puts the emphasis in the right place." She added that it shows the records management program is serious about electronic records management and the broader impact of information management.

Throughout her campaign, Fisher stressed the advantages to the business of aligning the two efforts. Fortunately, her credibility within the organization influenced the vice-president level to listen and buy into her vision.

Tying back to the business is critical to the overall effectiveness of the information management program, agree Smith and Roberts. "You have to understand where your effort fits into the business," says Roberts. "No matter where you are in the business practice, if you can play a role in making it more efficient you will increase your stature and influence."

Smith similarly advises: "You have to look at the business need first, then look at the technology. Too many CIOs are looking only at the technology side -- that's why they are failing."

Reaping the Benefits

When managed well, the integration of RM and IT under an information management umbrella can be a win-win situation for both areas. According to H. Larry Eiring, Covington & Burling's records manager, "Being under the CIO has given us access to technical support and knowledge, information, and political clout that we didn't have before."

Smith reports that the integration has allowed him to "elevate the records management people higher, bring them to the table." On the flip side, the IS department has benefited from the introduction of records management concepts.

Fisher has also been able to upgrade several records management positions as a member of the IT organization. But the pay-off has not been one sided either. "We added a new dimension" she says. After three years, the "techies are beginning to understand that we're separate, but together we bring a whole perspective." In turn, this arrangement has given her the chance to impact IT decisions and learn more about technology solutions as well as the company's many businesses.

Predictably, this new structure and focus on information management's role in business is also influencing the skills and perspectives IS and RIM professionals are expected to bring to the enterprise. What do the CIOs in these instances look for? On the records management side, Smith expects his people to be problem solvers, comfortable with computers, and willing to unlearn. He pushes his IS staff to be more analytical and develop more business savvy.

Where previously she looked for high-end clerical staff whom she could train in records management, Fisher says she now looks for business analysis, project management, and consulting skills. "Each of these individuals have to be able to work with executive vice presidents in each division," she explains.

Eiring stresses the importance of learning more about systems architecture. When hiring, he looks for individuals who are technology savvy. He also places great value and emphasis on communication skills. "First and foremost, they have to be able to properly communicate -- verbally as well as in writing," Eiring stresses.

Rising to the Challenge

At the CIO level, an information management perspective challenges the executive to take the time to plan the systems and understand the important role records management plays in the bigger picture. To help him in this expanded role, Smith set out early on to learn more about records management. He went so far as to become a certified records manager.

Managing records and refining information to keep up with the speed of business is the challenge from Roberts' perspective. This requires staying current on new technology trends as well as understanding the whole flow process -- both paper and electronic. He has also found his commercial and consulting experience invaluable in his current role.

Of course, not all CIOs will be able to step into the new strategic roles defined for them by determined, competition-driven CEOs. These roles require skills and perspectives never before expected in this traditionally technology-focused position. But the opportunities are tremendous for those who take the challenge. The same is true of records and information managers. Regardless of whether records management and IS are integrated, records managers who align themselves with business goals, and who understand the potential of the technology tools available, will be in a much better place to play an influential role in their enterprise.

The writing is clearly on the wall. Concludes Fisher: "There's always going to be change -- we just have to keep up with that change or we will become obsolete. We have to keep finding ways to add value."


Drucker, Peter F. Management Challenges for the 21st Century. New York: HarperCollins, 1999.

Goldberg, Michael. "The CIO -- Past and Future." CIO Magazine. 13 June 2001. Available at 61301_roundtable.html (accessed 28 January 2002).

Gartner Inc. "IT Management Scenario: Navigating Uncertainty." June 1999.

Cynthia Launchbaugh is Director of Communications for ARMA International. She may be reached at
COPYRIGHT 2002 Association of Records Managers & Administrators (ARMA)
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Article Details
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Author:Launchbaugh, Cynthia
Publication:Information Management Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2002
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