This is a picture of my accountant, Susan. (OK, this isn’t really her picture and her name isn’t really Susan – but play along.) Susan has done my taxes for years. She is very good at her job, so it’s a little less painful to pay her all the money she charges. But it’s still painful. At least it is until I consciously focus on what I’m paying her for.
Susan worked very hard for a very long time and earned her CPA…but that’s not what I pay her for. She struggled for years to build a successful practice…but that’s not what I pay her for. She spends countless hours studying tax law so she can save me as much money come April tax time as possible…but even that isn’t what I pay her for.
So why do I pay Susan? I pay her to relieve me of the risk I would otherwise incur by filing my taxes on my own. If Uncle Sam determines that I didn’t pay a tax that I should have, Susan gets in trouble, not me. That’s how Susan earns her money. That is the value she provides the marketplace.
Records and information management professionals are no different than accountants. We struggle to build our practice and our reputation. We work very hard to obtain and maintain industry accreditation. We spend untold hours researching information lifecycle management requirements and external records management regulations so we know exactly how to keep our organizations out of hot water. But the value we provide to our customers – and the reason we earn our (shockingly meager) salaries – is bearing the responsibility for the destruction of information that no longer provides any business value.
Look, the default ‘save everything forever’ model of information lifecycle management most organizations have adopted is demonstrably unsustainable. It is costing our customers millions (sometimes billions) of dollars and is the root cause of every information technology problem businesses face today. And only well-trained, experienced records and information management professionals are qualified to change that.
Do you want to prove your value to your organization? Do you want to ensure you have job security for as long as you like? Ask for a meeting with your manager at his or her next opportunity. Explain to them that studies show that 69% of the information stored at the average organization has absolutely no business value and can be defensibly destroyed. And make a commitment to reduce your organization’s stored information by 25% over the next 12 months. And finally, make it clear to your manager that you are personally taking legal responsibility for the defensible destruction of this information. If there are any questions about missing information, you will defend its destruction. Not your boss, not your legal counsel, not your CEO – you.
Then, a year from now, calculate how much your organization saved by destroying a quarter of its information (this is easy to do and you will be amazed at how much it is), present it to your manager and explain to them that you will increase that amount to 35% over the next 12 months. And then ask for a raise.