Records Managers Manage Information – Both Unstructured and Structured

Digital RM

Information is data in context.

This is what data looks like:

264, RE, 54648, AC123-987, 1290722580, S-02-473, 80, 120.00, 0.05, 1290786730

Doesn’t mean much of anything, right?  Here’s that same data in context:

Data In Context

This is information.

Records managers manage information effectively through its appropriate lifecycle – without any regard to the media onto which it is recorded. That’s what we’ve done for, quite literally, thousands of years. And it is what we will continue to do.

Here are some paper invoice records which were used by the Acme Manufacturing Company for decades:

Paper Invoices

 

About 10 years ago, Acme started creating and maintaining their invoice records as unstructured documents in an electronic records repository:

Unstructured Invoices

 

The information contained in these electronic records is exactly the same as the information contained in the paper invoice records. Different media, but same information – so the external laws and regulations and the internal business requirements will be exactly the same, too.

Two years ago, looking to improve efficiencies and provide a better user experience, Acme created web forms that made invoices submittable in real-time via mobile devices:

Structured Invoices

Rather than creating these invoices as unstructured documents, this forms process creates the invoice as a row in a database (i.e. as structured content).  This new invoice process resulted in tremendous improvements in efficiency and significant cost savings for Acme.

The information in these structured invoices is exactly the same as the information in the unstructured invoices.  And it is exactly the same as the information contained on the original paper invoices, as well.  So, subsequently, the external laws and regulations and the internal business requirements that apply to this information are no different, either. Nothing magical happens to change that simply because the information moves from an unstructured format to a structured one.  

Current estimates indicate that about 90% of the worlds information is maintained in unstructured content.  But as mobile devices, the so-called ‘Internet of Things’ and cloud computing continue to explode, that figure will begin to drop dramatically over the next few years.  More and more information previously stored on physical media or in unstructured documents will be moved to databases in the near future and records  management professionals need to manage the lifecycle of that information accordingly.  Fortunately for us all, the technology already exists today to do so.


One thought on “Records Managers Manage Information – Both Unstructured and Structured

  1. Great post. I expect both structured and “unstructured” information to keep increasing. Like you point out, information in context is what humans understand and what businesses need to manage. I look forward to continuing this conversation with you.

    Liked by 1 person

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