Recordkeeping requirements designed for the work environment of the 1990s are obsolete. Public sector executives responsible for information and records management practices and technologies need to brace themselves.
This market has entered an era of disruption when it comes to capturing, managing, preserving and safely disposing of digital content and communication. The pace of technology innovation is outstripping the capacity of many first-generation content and information management tools. Keeping up with new sources of content – potential records – is difficult when deployment roadmaps and acquired products feel obsolete before implementation is complete.
In September 2013, the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) made a bold admission. The DoD 5015.2 standard is no longer a mandatory requirement for U.S. agencies who want to explore fresh approaches to the management of digital records.
First published in the early 1990s, this long-standing benchmark of records management functionality has struggled to keep pace with the rapid adoption of email, social media, instant messaging and cloud computing. Record management (RM) products designed to comply with the DoD 5015.2 often have user interfaces and navigation schemes that borrow heavily from the world of paper. The “file and declare” approach to digital records does not scale in the world of social, mobile and cloud – the world of big content and big data. NARA is encouraging agencies to explore new approaches to information management that can scale up as the volume of digital records it anticipates moves from petabytes to zettabytes over coming years. Is Canada’s public sector ready to do the same?
Canadian record management professionals report the same key challenges as their global peers. In the 2013 Forrester-ARMA Joint Survey of the top challenges facing an RM program, four of the five named by Canadian respondents were the same as the global findings. Staffing is the number one challenge, both finding qualified people and cultivating existing teams. As the RM profession necessarily becomes more deeply connected with business and IT strategy, core competencies need to shift or individuals themselves may become disrupted. Other top challenges include: lack of alignment among IT, legal and business teams; inconsistent classification of records by end-users and limited capabilities to integrate RM tools with other systems. The fifth top challenge named by Canadians, significantly higher than overall survey results, was “insufficient software feature sets.”
Government departments should prepare to explore automated classification, digital preservation, open source and open standards, and a lifecycle approach to information management. As the music and pop culture of the 1990s morphs into retro, so must that era’s records management practices.
Trend 1: Governance of information is going beyond the “record.”
Traditional records and content management systems focus on capturing information at the end of a business process. The emerging concept of “information governance” means thinking about how information is categorized, secured and shared across its end-to-end lifecycle. Context – coming from the document type, workflow around it and originating person or team – can help pre-determine how it is classified as it is created or used.
Processes and tools designed for how information is generated and shared digitally must supersede the frameworks developed for paper. The business drivers behind adoption of tools such as content management systems in 2013-14 are better information sharing, improved search and cost-effective automation of processes. These were the top three goals for system deployment in the 2013 survey of ECM decision-makers conducted by Forrester. Governance and retention policies must be moved further upstream to reflect today’s use cases.
Trend 2: New sources of business records continue to be neglected.
The “file and declare” approach to capturing traditional documents into an RM system is failing to keep pace with new sources of potential records. RM applications have been slow to provide integrations to mobile, cloud, collaborative or software-as-a-service (SaaS) systems. Many records managers are already failing to put these newer forms of content under retention policies. Forrester’s 2013 joint survey found that enterprise collaboration sites, cloud-based filing sharing tools and instant messaging were the top three sources of content NOT covered by an RM policy. Public sector departments who neglected to treat email as a serious source of business records 15-20 years ago are now repeating the same mistake with collaborative, smartphone and cloud applications.
Open data initiatives also push the envelope for public sector records management. In Forrester’s conversations with Canadian public sector decision-makers, few organizations are actively making a connection between publication of open data and the retention rules that could apply to it. In contrast, jurisdictions like the State of Queensland in Australia have put retention and open data publication guidance for drone data on their citizen-facing website.
Trend 3: Digital preservation is forcing itself onto the agenda.
Public sector use of personal computers, office suites and email applications is into its second decade. Specialized information and data processing tools have been used since the mid-20th century. The risk of hardware, software and file format obsolescence is upon us with older niche, proprietary systems, presenting a significant risk to the completeness of the historical and institutional record. Confidence that older records will be accessible and retrievable is low, according to a joint Forrester-ARMA International Q3 2013 survey of records managers. Only 15 percent of RM professionals had a high degree of confidence that information could be quickly and cost-effectively found after 15 years. A further 42 percent of respondents were “somewhat” confident.
More information management professionals should proactively plan to adopt open standards for long-term preservation (such as PDF/A or open document formats) as well as budgeting and planning for migration or conversion activities as part of the lifecycle of records as software upgrades are performed or storage devices are retired.
Trend 4: Open standards and open source are changing the vendor landscape.
The Canadian public sector lags behind the U.S. federal government, the U.K. and much of Europe in its willingness to test and adopt information management technologies available under open source licensing. Notable exceptions can be found in the adjacent technology market of web content management, where open source products and community-developed toolkits are delivering value to Canadian federal and municipal sites.
In 2012, the U.S. federal government published a directive on managing government records, providing further guidance to a 2011 presidential memorandum. Both open source and open standards are called important components of a modernized records management program. Open source content management technologies, whether backed by a vendor or a community, can be evaluated as lower cost alternatives to traditional vendors. Access to source code and licensing models can encourage re-use and sharing of code across departments offering an opportunity for lower costs and consistently implemented customizations. Open standards for metadata standards, file formats and interoperability are of particular interest to public sector information managers. Interoperability standards, such as CMIS (Content Management Interoperability Services), have now been adopted by many of the content management vendors, allowing public sector organizations to ease the burden of sharing content when multiple systems or repositories are in place.
Trend 5: Auto-classification becomes viable and increasingly expected.
While Forrester’s research indicates broad interest in auto-classification and/or auto-categorization among content management decision-makers, few have active plans to implement such technologies. 2013 survey data reveals that 35 percent of respondents were “interested, but no plans,” while only eight percent claimed no interest; 21 percent had specific plans to deploy, and another 21 percent already had some level of implementation.
The rise of content analytic tools in related markets such as eDiscovery is revealing more opportunities to use concept or theme analysis, as well as machine-learning techniques to improve accuracy levels. Technologies are not only becoming more mature, but are being tested and accepted in courts of law, particularly in the United States. Alternative licensing models from vendors offering SaaS, volume or project-based subscriptions also make such technologies more approachable. No longer should file share or email system migration exercises require human intervention for first level content identification, assessment or de-duplication efforts.
As the volume of digital content from departments and agencies grows, manual “file and declare” approaches to record capture cannot scale. Automation of capture, classification and analysis will be the most viable approach to keeping up with the pace of digital disruption.