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Records managers should embrace the newfound value of data

Enterprises are increasingly viewing company data as a valuable asset, and this creates both challenges and opportunities for records managers.

Records managers have often faced a dilemma of knowing their work has real value, even if it was hard to quantify and often overlooked. That situation is changing, as companies increasingly see business data as a potential asset that can drive improvements and growth.

Business intelligence is a primary driver behind this trend. Whether it's crunching company numbers in search of fresh insights or reviewing operational practices to achieve greater efficiency, enterprises are moving toward data-driven decision making, and that requires ensuring an ever-widening array of information is collected, stored and disseminated effectively. 

That's a challenge for many stewards of company records, but it's also an opportunity. Companies have long conceded that records management is a necessary evil, if for no other reasons than compliance with regulatory and legal obligations. But analytics run on data, that is ideally easy to find and share -- which has not always been the case with enterprise content management. But now fear of falling behind the competition has companies motivated -- finally -- to get their information houses in order, and so they're increasingly shedding that traditional view of records managers as glorified enterprise librarians, in favor of practitioners with a more holistic view of how information flows through the enterprise. 

At the macro level, this trend represents a larger transition in the nature of company records, which have traditionally focused on one-off, transactional information such as sales and revenue figures. Today, increased digitization of processes puts a much wider set of data points at the fingertips of enterprises, which can be fed into analytics programs and increasingly user-friendly data visualization software to help non-analysts get a better sense of which factors are driving success or failure. It also presents the opportunity to combine transactional data from multiple systems, such as ERP, CRM, financials and content management systems to get a more complete view of customers and company operations.

This is the world that modern records managers are operating in, and they're uniquely qualified to provide much needed order for this heretofore overlooked asset.

For records managers amid this transition, it can also be an opportunity to revisit information practices that have developed organically -- and haphazardly -- over the years and evangelize efficiencies and best practices. Now is the time to promote those traditional tools of records management --  such automated workflows, compliance initiatives and rational retention polices -- which built a track record of efficient data stewardship, back before enterprises saw the true value.  

Enterprises are coming to understand the importance of data as an asset, and that could prove a windfall for information governance initiatives that have long languished on the back burner. But in many cases the onus is still on records managers to recognize the opportunities and put together the business case for a smarter, more efficient workplace.

It's a big world outside of the archive pigeonhole, and the time is right for records managers to make it a more orderly, compliant and searchable space.

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