Collaboration – Mistakes and Learnings:

As a longtime participant in the corporate world and while carrying out my Records Manager responsibilities, I recall many instances where I have observed organizational departments operating in silos,” establishing processes, implementing point-solution software, drafting policies, and making decisions without regard to the collective impact to the organization.  To be transparent, I have also been guilty of the same nearsightedness.

In 2007, as a newly hired Corporate Records Manager for a Fortune 300 company with operations across the US and Canada, I was excited to publish the company’s first RIM policy.  Shortly after the policy was published, I received a call to report to my VP’s office.  When I arrived, I was met by my VP, and to my surprise, the VP of Internal Audit.

In the new RIM policy, I included an “Audit” section stating that Internal Audit would audit the policy for compliance. There were just a couple of things wrong.  I never met with Internal Audit to review the policy or obtain their audit approval.  It took about five minutes of strongly-worded, one-way conversation for me to learn a valuable career lesson – collaborate!

As RIM professionals, we must not, for many reasons, operate in a vacuum. As a critical organizational support function, RIM impacts all aspects of an organization. However, it is essential, in an effort, to bolster RIM education, awareness, and compliance that we are not just viewed as another support function that sits in an office or behind a desk. We must be visible and actively interact with members of the organization.

It is important to contact department leadership and schedule time with them, and their employees, to meet (in-person if applicable) to discuss RIM, what are their pain-points, and how can the RIM department better serve their needs. Another career lesson I learned over the years is to value diplomacy overtaking a “big stick” approach for accomplishing RIM matters.  RIM professionals know and have long understood that RIM matters typically fall on the low-end of the departmental priority scale.  If you interact diplomatically with employees and show them how RIM can benefit their daily work life, you stand a higher chance for success – the “what’s in it for me factor.”

Yes, we are educated regarding RIM-related matters and have our opinions on how content should be managed, but we run risks if we attempt to do it alone. As educated as we are on RIM matters, there is a good chance we do not understand them all. This includes, what processes records facilitate, what information constitutes a record versus a copy, which department is the “office of record”, organizational and departmental active and planned initiatives, and how they may impact RIM and the organization.

Collaborating Effectively:

During my years as a RIM Manager, I have been contacted numerous times by IT departments wanting my expertise and insight into whether application-based data can be archived or deleted because storage is low, the network is impacted, and system backups are taking too long. Many times, based on the circumstances, my first response is, did you confer with the business owner of the information to determine the active and inactive period of the content.

As a RIM Manager, I have also been the one to reach out to business units because I learn of an initiative or someone says to me, “do you know”, meaning, an employee informs me of a business unit that has reached out to a software vendor to acquire an application without conferring with IT, and other departments that may have a stake in the matter such as, Legal, Risk, Procurement, and RIM.

The absence of effective collaboration is detrimental to an organization and often results in money and time being wasted, projects being delayed, and compliance being jeopardized. Organizations that have successfully established a culture of collaboration create a “big picture” focus for their departments and employees. For these companies, while a prospective initiative is still in the white-board phase, the collaborative-related questions are being asked:

  • How will this impact the company
  • Who will be impacted
  • How will they be impacted
  • Who do we need to involve
  • When do we need to involve them

So, what steps can RIM professionals take to make this collaborative approach a reality?  As stated in the first section of this blog, we can enhance collaboration by being visible and interactive with the organization’s leadership and employees.  Sometimes it means being a RIM detective. The more we interact with employees, the more we will discover, and the more we can put our expertise to work.

Does anyone think about Information Governance (IG), I am.  Please stay tuned.