On Why the Records Management Profession Must Endure

  • A former ARMA International Association President states during a keynote address that the disposition of records in a massive corporate data lake “doesn’t really matter.”
  • A practitioner of ‘information governance,’ – purportedly the “expansion of traditional records management” – offers to make you a certified information governance professional “in just two weeks!”
  • A career-long, low-level marketing manager who started his own ‘information governance’ association publicly demands that “records management evolve” or face irrelevance.
  • ARMA International advertises a webcast explaining why the records management profession – which it once so proudly represented – is in ‘peril’…and then charges $39 to attend. 

This is madness.

The explosive growth of information experienced across every industry is demonstrably unsustainable.  This is not my opinion, this is a well-documented fact that has been proven in countless scientific studies.  This means the defensible destruction of expensive, risky information that has no business value is existentially important to the success of every organization in operation today – and only qualified, credible records management professionals will do it.

Here’s why.  I’ve had an accountant for many years.  I pay her a lot of money and I do it willingly.  Why is she so valuable to me?  Is it because she can tell me which taxes I have to pay and which I can avoid?  No, not exactly.  I can buy software that can do that for less than $50.  My accountant earns her pay because I know her years of education and experience give her the legal and moral authority to make and defend her decisions. It is the only thing that enables her to confidently tell me which taxes I must pay and which taxes I can ignore.

Furthermore, I know that if those in charge of enforcing my taxes come knocking on my door, angrily questioning my latest filing, I can immediately point them to my accountant and quickly return to conducting my daily business, confidently knowing that she has the authority to defend every decision she made.

Now imagine if my accountant didn’t have the authority that her education, accreditation and experience provide. Nor the confidence that comes with it. Imagine if she came to me and sheepishly said, “Don, I’ve completed your taxes and you are going to pay every single tax on the books – just to be safe.”  Technically, she has provided me with a service: completing my taxes.  Obviously, she did a horrible job, but she did provide a service.  But what value does she provide by not having the authority to confidently avoid some taxes?  Clearly, the answer is none.

Records management is no different.  Records management is a clearly defined, noble discipline that has a proud history dating back for centuries.  Records management professionals have always provided the same service – effectively managing information, regardless of format, through its complete lifecycle: creation, distribution, use, maintenance, and disposition. That has never changed.

But the value that records managers provide to our customers is the legal and moral authority we have that is the result of our training and experience which empowers us to make and defend the difficult decisions that we need to make.  No other group of people – and certainly no new, vaguely-defined profession – will ever confidently destroy massive volumes of information and then willfully and effectively defend their actions if they are ever questioned.  Professional records managers stand alone in this capacity.

The growth of newly created information has skyrocketed over the last two decades and new technologies, such as cloud computing, mobility and in particular, the Internet of Things, are on the verge of ushering in a massive new wave of information that defies human logic.  Left unchecked, this growth will consume more resources than our organizations are able to afford, leading to catastrophic results.

Managing this new information through defensible disposition is the only hope for the continued success of our organizations and for this reason alone, the records management profession must endure.

2 thoughts on “On Why the Records Management Profession Must Endure

  1. “A former ARMA International Association President states” name please?
    “A practitioner of ‘information governance,’” name please and I believe you’ve misconstrued what the individual said
    “ARMA International advertises a webcast ” and i believe that the webcast is free repeat free to ARMA members. are you a member?

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