Do you work in a highly regulated industry? If so, chances are your organization has a strong, mature RIM program, including executive support, and dedicated annual budget dollars to fund employee staffing, awareness, training, and RIM initiatives. Raise your hand if you don’t fall into this category. The reality is most in our profession don’t. We struggle convincing executive or senior-level management that we as professionals in our discipline provide a benefit to the organization, and can reduce organizational risks, increase operational efficiency, and reduce RIM-related costs.
So, how do we make our case to executives and senior management to support RIM awareness, staffing, training and initiatives? Support is the first step to ensure your RIM program is successful. Without the correct level of support, RIM policies, processes and initiatives will only result in “noise” to employees. Employees have primary job functions – functions they are required to devote their efforts toward and are evaluated on. At the risk of sounding like a jaded RIM veteran, many of us know that RIM can often be located at the low-end of a department’s priorities. If RIM is not appropriately supported, meaning there is no consequence or accountability for failure to comply, then many employees will choose to focus their efforts on what they consider most impactful and meaningful.
The first step in obtaining executive and senior-level support for your RIM program is to ensure, first and foremost you are educated on RIM fundamentals. Though to some this may seem archaic, fundamentals are the cornerstone of a RIM program:
- What records and information (physical & electronic) does the organization possess (inventory)
- Where is the information located – onsite, offsite records storage vendors and electronic on-prem, cloud vendors
- Are all departments and their respective records represented on the company’s records retention schedule
- Has the records retention schedule been vetted – either internally by the Legal department or via a qualified 3rd party
Also, the RIM department must have an in-depth understanding of the organization. This includes the nature of the business, the organizational structure, regulatory and operational requirements, how records are used to support departmental processes, associated risks, and operational efficiencies.
There are additional fundamental aspects to be considered. However, the items above are the basic foundational starting points. As RIM professionals, we must be able to effectively communicate this information to the executive, senior-management leadership to ensure they understand that as RIM professionals, we are educated on matters related to the company and its informational assets.
Education & Credibility:
We work and operate in a dynamic discipline. The RIM landscape has drastically changed in the past two decades, including records management to RIM, to IG, software enhancements, privacy regulations, new laws and industry regulations, collaboration, electronic records management, advances in document imaging, and internal consulting. We are no longer just the file room people. Organizations are now looking to the RIM professional to provide guidance to all levels of the company. Our opinion is being solicited; the question is are we prepared to answer?
Education, knowledge, and experience help to ensure credibility. Credibility is what executives and senior management leadership look for before they authorize budgets, and other funding decisions. They want to know what is presented to them comes from a knowledgeable, accurate and reliable source. For most occupations, you must continue to learn and grow your craft and stay abreast of changes. Our profession is no different. Whether you are a RIM veteran or a newcomer, you should seek opportunities to advance your RIM knowledge. Fortunately, the RIM profession has many avenues for advancing our education, knowledge, and career. As RIM professionals we should consider the following:
- Join ARMA International and your local chapter and attend the annual conference and monthly chapter meetings
- Obtain your Certified Records Analyst (CRA) or Certified Records Manager (CRM) designation through the Institute of Certified Records Managers (ICRM)
- Obtain your Information Governance Professional (IGP) designation through ARMA
- Subscribe to RIM/IG-related news feeds such as IG GURU, or the Records Management Listserv
- Register for industry webinars
- Obtain a mentor through ARMA or the ICRM
- Become an AIIM Certified Information Professional (CIP)
- Obtain privacy-related designations
- Go to college or further your college education
I have witnessed over the past 23-years of my career as I, and my, respective RIM staff continued to further our RIM education, knowledge, and experience what positive results occurred, both for the organization and the employees. We continue to be sought out as subject matter experts (SMEs), we provide credible guidance based on our knowledge of RIM matters, leading to budget approval for RIM initiatives, additional staffing, and promotions.
This is not always the case. However, we stand a better chance of this occurring when we are RIM educated. The intent of this blog post is not to talk about me and what I have accomplished, but what my colleagues can accomplish in their organizations if they continue their RIM education and increase their credibility.
As important as education and credibility is for obtaining support for, and advancing your RIM initiatives, if you are unable to effectively communicate the message, you will significantly lessen your credibility, and potential for your RIM program initiatives to be approved. For several years I served as an ICRM Part 6 grader and writer. During my time as a grader, I failed numerous candidates, not for their subject matter knowledge, but for their inability to effectively communicate their message to executive and senior management leadership.
I was able to discern that most ICRM candidates knew the subject matter as I read their responses. However, knowing the RIM subject matter and effectively communicating it are two different and very important issues. The executive and senior management leadership team want concise and credible information, including the objective, benefits, the price tag, return on investment (ROI), resources needed, and the project completion timeline.
We did not all go to high school and college to be English majors, journalists, and literary writers, but as RIM professionals, and to establish credibility in our discipline, we have to understand what is being required of us. Earlier in this post I listed educational opportunities and resources. Please seek out these resources if you feel you are deficient in your knowledge or communication skills. Both ARMA and the ICRM are great mentor resources. They can partner you with RIM professionals that, based on my experience, are always more than willing to help.
My hope is that this post helps. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of assistance. The purpose of my website is to help my RIM colleagues. You can contact me via my website “Contact” page, or at the information below:
Blake E. Richardson, CRM