Malcolm Gladwell is arguably Canada’s greatest living gift to Western Civilization (outside of Bob and Doug McKenzie, who are hilarious). In his seminal book of the same name, Gladwell defines a ‘tipping point’ as “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point”. And unless you’ve been living under a rock somewhere – or perhaps been chained up in a physical records repository blissfully managing paper documents from the late 1970’s – you could not help but notice that the current state of records management has reached a classic Gladwellian tipping point.
The decades-long mismanagement of electronically stored information, the billions of dollars wasted on failed records management solutions and the explosive growth of newly created information have all brought us to the brink of disaster. We are all standing on the edge of the same rocky cliff and we’re staring into a pit full of costly, dangerous and unreliable information.
The current rate of over-retention of information is simply not sustainable. This is true from a cost perspective, a legal perspective, a business efficiency perspective, or any other way you may look at it. And you can argue that storage is cheap and getting cheaper all the time. I’m not going to disagree with you on that. But the fact is the basic math is very clear here: storage costs are not declining at a rate anywhere close to the exponential rate that new information is growing.
And honestly, when we’ve reached a point where companies are willing to settle multimillion dollar lawsuits rather than undergo a costly and burdensome e-discovery process – despite being completely innocent of the claims against them – it is hard to deny that the situation has reached a critical mass.
Fortunately, I believe it is not too late turn this ship around. We can begin to defensibly delete significant portions of our information repositories. We can classify and manage our most critical business information in complete compliance with internal and external requirements. We can finally put an end to burdening our information workers with time consuming records management responsibilities. And we can do it all by fully automating all lifecycle management processes across all of our information throughout the organization.
I recently asked Martin Garland, President of International Operations and co-founder of Concept Searching, if an Automated Information Lifecycle Management model was a realistic approach given the technology required and the cultural changes the Records Management community would have to accept to make it possible.
“Yes, it is. In fact, we’ve been preaching that for the last four or five years”, Martin told me. “And we’ve been doing what we’ve been preaching the last four years or so with real-world customers.”
“So an AILM model of enterprise records management is attainable?”
“Absolutely. The proof is in the pudding, Don. We are actually doing this type of work right now, whether it be records, whether it be sensitive information, whether it be any type of information [the customer] wants to manage, lock down, identify… In my briefings, I always talk about the human factor and how the problem of information and content management is the human factor. You need to take the human factor out of the equation. But not at the expense of automation without human knowledge. We’ve taught that for the last five or six years in all of our briefings.”
Geoff Bourgeois, Chief Technology Officer at Acaveo, agrees. “I think the number of organizations out there right now [that are implementing an AILM model across the enterprise] is pretty low. Probably something like less than 1% – and you could probably still shoot some holes in their claims, as well”, Geoff said when we spoke recently.
“Oh, of course, Geoff”, I told him. “I’m not suggesting any solution will ever be completely bullet proof. That’s just not realistic. But what I’m asking is can a reasonably comprehensive AILM model be realistically implemented in good faith across the enterprise?”
Geoff thinks it can. “A good message to get out there, Don, is this: ‘Folks, the toolsets, the underlying infrastructure, the technology is there to automate these processes. It’s just a matter of us understanding it, getting organized around it and using it.”
So if respected industry thought leaders like Martin and Geoff are right and an AILM model of records management is possible, what’s stopping us from doing it right now? In the next installment of this series, I’ll discuss some of the barriers to implementing a solution based on an AILM model and what needs to be done to work through them.