Evolution of Records and Information Management

Robin Woolen, The Records Guru®

Many people still refer to records and information management (RIM) as something totally distinct from information governance (IG) when, in fact, they are merely different stages of the same concept. The term “information governance” first appeared in a 2011 white paper published by the Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM) working group and ARMA International in response to challenges posed by the increasing usage of technology in the discovery phase of a lawsuit.

For this phase, legal counsels needed a way to gather and review an organization’s electronically stored information that was critical to a lawsuit. The white paper proposed what became the industry standard for the e-discovery workflow process. With the “Information Governance Reference Model” (IGRM), the paper treated the IG phase of the EDRM process as the critical first step.

What Exactly Is IG?

ARMA International defines IG as a “strategic, cross-disciplinary framework composed of standards, processes, roles and metrics that hold organizations and individuals accountable for the proper handling of information assets. The framework helps organizations achieve business objectives, facilitates compliance with external requirements, and minimizes risk posed by sub-standard information-handling practices.” Simply put, IG is the process of getting trusted information to the right people at the right time.

The Relationship between RIM and IG

As the IGRM shows, RIM is the foundation of information governance, providing the basic policies and procedures from which the IG process proceeds. RIM grounds four key areas of IG that I like to call “The Four Ws”:

  • What are your information assets? The RIM term for this is “record identification.”
  • Where are these assets located? RIM professionals store this information in a data map and a file plan.
  • When can I get rid of these assets? RIM professionals record this information in a retention schedule.
  • Who owns, maintains and accesses these assets? RIM professionals keep this information in the access control files.

This foundation must be in place before you can address the more technical aspects of IG: security, privacy, data analytics and machine learning. More than anything, technological innovation in every industry fueled the evolution of RIM into IG. RIM professionals transitioned from file rooms to data centers in every organization — because that is where the records are, now.

Records and information management is still alive and well as a discipline. It has grown with the technological advancements of today’s business world, but its fundamentals remain important. IG is a collaborative effort across all departments of an organization to make things run smoothly. This effort does, however, require someone with a strong understanding of RIM to lead it.

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