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Businesses seek an expanded set of records management skills

Organizations are recognizing that records management skills extend far beyond shuffling files into critical aspects of risk management and business operations. Do you fit the new records manager job description?

The business world generally has characterized records managers as little more than glorified librarians. As a consultant and trainer, I still encounter many executives who think records managers simply take documents and engage in an ongoing process of classify, file and occasionally retrieve -- assuming they have thought about it at all.

We know, of course, that this seriously undervalues what records professionals can do for an organization in terms of supporting compliance, reducing risk and improving business operations. But it's only recently that this greater import has begun to seep into executives' minds, and thence into records-related job descriptions. Career-minded practitioners therefore would do well to update their skillsets accordingly, and to do so right now.

Help wanted

Consider the following extracts, which I pulled from a long list of recent job postings for records management positions:

"Administers the enterprise-wide records management program to maintain, protect and dispose of records in accordance with operational needs, governmental regulations, fiscal/legal requirements, historical and reference purposes." -- Sallie Mae

One pixel ARMA: New challenges ahead for records

"Responsible for leading, planning and managing the department/agency records management program for both core mission and administrative records, regardless of medium or format." -- National Archives and Records Administration

"Requires expertise in information management and records in both electronic and hard-copy format." -- Gap Inc.

As you can see, these advertised positions -- and myriad others -- require candidates to have skills that, not long ago, would have been more the domain of IT or business management than records. These skills include the following :

  • An understanding of business operation
  • Knowledge of hard- and soft-copy storage media and formats
  • Familiarity with best practices for sharing and protecting information of all kinds
  • The ability to work with and lead people in a range of other departments

If we assume job requisitions reflect management's view of the capabilities an organization needs -- and they do – it's safe to conclude the old perception of the records function is giving way to a new, more holistic and strategic view, and records professionals are on the cusp of receiving the broad recognition they deserve.

Records management skills checklist

If you're a records management professional, this is great news, for the disciplines that are near and dear to your heart are applicable up, down and across the organizational structure. The trick is to demonstrate that you have a clear view of this big picture and can utilize your experience to affix the precepts of good governance to all departments and functions.

Here's a brief checklist of skills to feature and/or acquire in order to qualify for these wider-ranging records management responsibilities.

  • Be familiar with how and where the needs of your organization's legal, compliance and operational departments intersect and, often, compete -- and be prepared to recommend possible solutions.
  • Learn more about what business analysts do and how to leverage their work when furthering your records strategies.
  • Be conversant in the technologies and issues involving not just records management, but content management, business process management (BPM), database management and other critical aspects of information management.
  • Understand how to use electronic tools to manage both digital and physical assets.
  • Deepen your expertise in taxonomy and metadata, especially as it relates to reconciling vocabularies across lines of business.
  • Finally, don't forget about all your "regular" records practices, such as classification, retention, disposition, compliance, legal hold, etc.

Next Steps

Do records management vendors need a reality check?

Overcoming modern records management challenges

How ECM systems help bridge information silos

Dig Deeper on Enterprise records management software

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