Seven Steps to Information Management Utopia

Topics: Govern Information | Information management: Best Practice Guides | Store and Protect Information

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Records and information management are terms that resonate with senior executives worldwide - indeed 94% of organizations intend to allocate more budgets to these areas this coming year. But look closer and you’ll find that despite wanting to do more in these areas, most organizations just don’t know where to start.

So how can these organizations get on the road to information management utopia? Here are seven areas to look at to get things moving.

1. Work Across the Whole Organization
Management can be applied at several levels within an organization and information management is no different. However, the overall management of corporate information needs to be owned across all levels of an organization. If your information management program is cast instead as a project that is temporary in nature and applicable to a sub-set of employees only – then you are setting the stage for failure. Consider viewing a set of architectural building plans purely from the front aspect - you miss so much information that while you could construct a building based on these plans, the probability of creating what the architect intended, and what the client wanted is almost zero. Not to mention that in missing the entire plan, the building could easily be sub-standard and hazardous. Likewise, when you do not scope and resource your records and information management implementation appropriately, you risk employees misunderstanding the role they play, as well as potentially exposing the organization to stiff penalties for non-compliance.

2. Identify a Champion
Any program of this scale and importance needs an internal champion with sufficient clout to get things done and one who can influence C-level executives. This champion will be needed to promote the cause, fight their corner when budgets are drawn up and fight even harder when the IT department say they can do everything in-house themselves. Consistency is key from this champion, as is the never-ending mantra that getting this wrong will cost the organization dearly.

3. Define the Classification Schemes
Admittedly not the sexiest aspect of information management and undoubtedly one of the most challenging, defining a classification scheme, or taxonomy, is an area where an organization may well need to draft in external help. Mapping out the various information assets and defining meta-tagging structures within a department is challenging, but combining the assets of multiple departments elevates the challenge to a whole new level - and one where an experienced team of practitioners or an outsourced document servicing provider can add significant benefit.

Getting the classification as “right as possible” but still flexible enough to develop over time, is a key milestone on the information management yellow brick road.

4. Understand Information Access
Gartner deem information management as one part of their nexus of forces — the other three forces of cloud, social and mobile, all focus on the mechanisms used to consume and create information and as such need to be addressed as part of the overall information management project. Defining areas such as how users can not just access records on mobile devices but also action tasks such as records deletion at the end of a retention schedule will allow the project overall to understand how information in used - and as a result how it needs to be created, stored, processed and secured.

5. Plan for eDiscovery
Compliance and governance are now an integral part of all organizations and as opposed to being a taboo subject, eDiscovery is an event that should be planned for and managed in the same manner that befits disaster recovery. If detailed classification is integrated into regular filing processes and e-discovery test-audits are performed regularly then the whole exercise of an e-discovery mandate should it happen becomes just that - an exercise, not a marathon – leaving your organization fully prepared and in good physical condition.

6. Deliver Reliable Security
The balance to be struck with mobilizing your records and information is that it needs to be done in a secure and governable manner. Information security is a massive subject and one not to be dealt with lightly - the ramifications of something as simple as leaving an un-encrypted USB-drive full of customer details on a bus should be enough to ensure significant attention is focused on this area.

Security has moved beyond perimeter protection - the blocking of intruders and attempts to hack into your organization from the outside. Security now needs to work from the outside-in and the inside-out, as most of the risks to your information will come from sanctioned users, using data outside of the firewall, and therefore potentially exposing all manner of information. New techniques and approaches are required to manage this risk and again, making use of experts in the field is advisable to make certain all areas of potential weakness are covered.

7. Talk to Outsourced Providers
Maybe not a topic that many would expect to be in a list such as this, but outsourced document service providers(sometimes known as outsourced records management providers or bureaus) not only offer services in and around physical document storage, document scanning and archiving, and document destruction, but many also have extensive experience in providing services such as e-discovery, bridging legacy and day forward information and taxonomy consulting. Providers are also very willing to swap stories of their own experiences working with a wide-variety of industries and organizations - they may also be able to provide white papers and case studies.

The services offered by such outsourced organizations are based around the digitization, preservation, management and destruction of documents and information, and can be a valuable resource for organizations looking to improve their information management, either on a mix-and-match basis, for example, providing scanning and classification services, or a one-stop-shop approach, delivering whole lifecycle management, to an organization.