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Centralized records management key to governance

Good information governance involves centralized records management, which merges siloed records and documents into a single digital repository.

As companies wrestle with best practices for records management, there are some simple rules that experts recommend...

to aid the task. Steve Goodfellow, president of Access Systems Inc. in Manlius, N.Y., and a speaker at the upcoming ARMA Live 2013, outlined some of these best practices in part two of this interview on records management trends and practices.

Steve GoodfellowSteve Goodfellow

One important principle is to stop making false distinctions between records and other kinds of enterprise content: Companies should manage all this information under one roof. Bringing this information together is the best way to gain control of various types of corporate information that needs to be backed up, searchable and accessible to employees -- as well as counsel in the event of legal proceedings.

Centralized records management may sound simple, but it has to extend beyond the tools. Some companies now use enterprise content management (ECM) systems to manage records and nonrecords, for example, but tools have to be combined with business processes. Understanding what companies have document-wise and developing processes for recording and managing these documents are also critical. And processes need to be built into the existing workflow, Goodfellow said.

Goodfellow also outlined trends such as cloud computing and the movement away from distributed systems that have amplified the need for -- and challenges of -- records management. He also outlined the movement toward greater standardization of document formats in his discussion with SearchContentManagement. In part one, Goodfellow discussed records managers' increasing challenges, given mobility, cloud computing and other technologies.

We talked about the impact of mobile and social technologies on records management. Which other trends are affecting records management most?

We're slowly moving toward this centralized repository again.

Steve Goodfellow,
president, Access Systems Inc.

Steve Goodfellow: One trend that I see is related to information governance: People are becoming more aware of the need to manage all information versus just records -- and the need to incorporate all these new technologies out there. There is a strong push toward a mobile environment, and people are still figuring out how to manage that.

When I was referring to the mainframe days, I see that coming back. Now we're slowly moving toward this centralized repository again. But the idea of it being in one room is what's changed. Now we're going to have this one cloud, so to speak, and within that cloud we could have these different records, but we know where the golden copy of these records [is] versus the tablet I'm carrying around. We're moving toward not having local storage but storage in the cloud, so I can access it because it's being managed centrally and I'm not storing data on my handheld device.

That centralization supports using digital systems to manage all this information, correct?

Goodfellow: Yes. We see as a bridge to that is putting in some type of ECM that not only manages the content that's being created in the digital world, but also the physical world. If I'm looking for a piece of information, if it's in digital format, it appears on my screen; if it's physical, a box in a storage room, the system tells me it's in box 325, on shelf two, in this aisle. That's what most organizations would want to move toward. They want instant access. If not, at least indicate where the information is, and I can decide whether it's worth going after that information. It goes back to Bill Gates' quote, 'Information at the fingertips.' That's what everyone wants: searchable, easy to access.

Electronic record preservation is a topic getting more traction now. If I'm dealing with permanent records -- permanent means forever. Am I going to be able to open up that document 50 years from now? We're talking about formats like Word, PDF and on and on. It's hard to imagine them not being open-able. Storing information in a format that is readable down the road is important.

Are there initiatives in place to make formats platform-agnostic?

For more on records management

Alleviating records managers' paralysis

Take a broad view with records management

Overcoming challenges of records management

Goodfellow: Yes. There is PDF/A, which encapsulates all the information you need to render the file within the file itself [so it is readable]. It is an international standards organization, so there is an ISO standard for that. You start seeing more things like PDF/A, XML and standards for storing for the long term.

Many people are unfamiliar with PDF/A or that they can do it with Microsoft Word as a Save As. PDF/A and XML are considered best practices for electronic records preservation. That allows you to build for the future, future-proof your archive.

Is greater standardization on the vendor or on the regulation and standards side necessary?

Goodfellow: Well, it's double-edged sword. You have vendors that want to give themselves an advantage, which may in some sense hinder compliance. And you may have lobbying efforts by standards bodies, so there is always that influence. But it has to be driven by the users. What is needed? Adobe and Microsoft working with ISO, they helped facilitate the PDF/A standard, along with ARMA and AIIM. That's innovation and standardization working together.

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