The lockdown resulting from the coronavirus pandemic has given me the opportunity to attend several webcasts on new records management products and services. All of these presentations have been quite good and provided a reasonable degree of useful information. There was a time in my career that I was doing these same webcasts, and I know how hard they can be to pull off, so I give all the presenters I’ve seen over the last couple of months all the credit they deserve.
That said, I was disappointed to see that all the presentations I attended stuck to a very narrow (and safe) set of records management functional requirements and none of them addressed any of the truly difficult challenges that modern records management professionals face in the real world.
All this left me wondering if the presenters simply weren’t aware of these challenges (very possible given that all of the presentations I attended were conducted by sales representatives rather than records management professionals) or if they were aware of the challenges, but didn’t bring them up because they have no real solution for them.
Either way, it occurred to me that it might be helpful to both the product and services vendors and their prospective customers if I provided a list of questions addressing these issues in hopes that they might be answered in some upcoming presentations.
So here, in no particular order, is my list of questions every electronic records management products and services webcast attendee should consider asking and every presenter should be prepared to answer:
- Immutability – How does your product/service ensure the integrity of the electronic record for evidentiary purposes? How does it guarantee that the record has not been altered in any way?
- Long-term Maintenance – Some ‘temporary’ records require storage for 50 or even 100 years. How does your solution solve the problem of software and hardware obsolescence?
- Forensic Destruction – Simply hitting ‘Delete’ on a record does not actually remove the record from its storage location, it only makes that location available to be written over at a later time. How does your product/service ensure that a record cannot be recovered after it has been destroyed during the Disposition phase?
- One Source of Truth – Electronic records proliferate at mindboggling speed. Multiple versions can be copied in emails, on shared drives, on laptops and flash drives, and even in memory of network printers. How does your product/service ensure a particular record is the ‘single source of truth’?
- Structured Information – More and more of a typical organization’s routinely created records are moving from an unstructured format to structured information in a database. But the retention and disposition requirements of the information contained in these structured records remains the same as when it was recorded as unstructured information. How does your product/service apply compliant information lifecycle management to structured records?
- Active vs. Dormant Information – Just as moving paper records from file cabinets to a secure records center when the record’s status changed from ‘active’ to ‘dormant’ significantly improved the security of non-electronic records, moving dormant electronic records to offline or nearline storage substantially improves an organization’s cybersecurity strategy. Does your product/service support the migration of dormant electronic records from their native location to nearline or offline media for long-term storage? If so, how?
- Event-based Retention Triggers – How does your product/service create unique event-based retention triggers? Can they be effectively managed at scale?
- AI and Machine Learning – With the continued explosive growth of newly created information, conventional wisdom suggests that artificial intelligence (and, in particular, machine learning) will be a required component of most enterprise-wide records management solutions. Does your product/service currently leverage AI to support information lifecycle management? If not, do you have a roadmap for incorporating AI into your product/solution?
- Usability/User Adoption – Given that records management is a horizontal industry and a requirement at every organization, it is assumed that you utilize your own product/service within your company. Can you demonstrate how your company uses your product/service to effectively manage the lifecycle of your corporate information?