What Do You Mean? That Was A Record…

What? You mean that was a record?” 3 things a records manager never wants to hear

By Darryl Wiggins on 02/22/2016 in Government:

When working with state governments to assist with the development of Retention Schedules and Accession Plans, I discovered I needed to implement an enterprise content management (ECM) solution. I was required to visit the State Archives and have my project approved. It turns out that my state has standards and protocols that I needed to adhere to, this ensures that my digital solution would adequately safeguard their  records.

It has been my experience that State Archivists are big fans of digitizing records as long as their standards are being followed. These Records Professionals shared some great and exacerbating stories concerning the preservation and management of records.

Here are some of the best and worst moments I have heard and experienced in my more than 25 years of working with Records Managers in state governments:

“Wait, you mean that was a record?”

Early recognition and classification of documents that have a records management requirement can be tricky. Several archivists have horror stories to tell about the loss of documents long before the department’s designated records person could preserve them. Often, staff whose job it was to originate and collect documents, at the earliest moment of classification, didn’t know if a document was classified or what classification they should use.

My ECM project would have solved this problem, because documents are classified when they initially are archived into the ECM solution. Staff could use a classification that they are familiar with, that without any more staff input, the solution would already be configured to meet document management requirements.

“We had a flood in that room about seven years ago.”

This problem regarding records preservation has kept many an archivists up all night. The perils are many. I can recall the time in my home state; when a storm caused a roof collapse in the building neighboring our Archives. Both buildings were constructed with the same type of flat roof architecture. This pales in comparison to catastrophic events that can occur, like hurricanes and fires. The loss of records can make information retrieval difficult or in some cases impossible. In my state, where records are needed to secure Homeland Security, the insecure nature of paper documents can be devastating for archivists. My state’s archives are currently housed in a facility that is hundreds of years old. But fortunately for the citizens of our city, Mayoral leadership has seen fit to invest in a new secured state of the-art research building, with climate control and special sprinklers. But how many counties and cities can afford such a facility or the forward thinking and permanent costs associated with secured offsite storage?

My ECM solution provided redundant copies, and now even has a cloud-based back-up system housed in a secure data center to ensure business continuity. The move to digital files has made it easier to manage records  even when events compromise traditional physical storage.

“We ran out of space so people started throwing things out.”

In my home state, new government facilities are being built everyday and agencies are moving from one location to another. I can confess to hearing more than once people saying “that if they didn’t know what it was or what is was for, trashed it” This wasn’t an intentional act of negligent, just the end result of having to relocate records with no direction as to their origin or intent.  This can be true of entire agencies and departments, without early classification of documentation, whole stacks of documents can sometimes be simply thrown out. This happens whenever file space gets tight or not easily accessible… This isn’t intentional; it’s simply that agencies usually don’t have enough space to manage the tons of paper documents.

The paper doesn’t stop, unless you move to digital records and use a tool like an ECM solution to manage the records. ECM means never running out of space and never worrying that staff is getting rid of records that need to be preserved.

Enterprise content management projects make archivist happy because they solve these problems and many more that records managers face every day. Many Archivist are looking forward to the day when ECM-driven records management solution, are implemented facilitating early capture, classification and redundant preservation of government mission critical records. An ECM platform has tools that make everyday government tasks faster and cheaper to perform. It’s a win-win that helps avoid ever hearing these comments again.

About Darryl Wiggins

Wondering what goes into a document management or ECM software deployment in government? Darryl Wiggins, Document Manager’s Principal and CEO, has your answer. In his 25 plus years in partnering with both state and local government, he’s managed Major Accounts for Xerox, implemented ECM strategies and program policies as the owner and Founding Partner for Document Managers. If that isn’t enough to prove his IT expertise in government, he has also designed and implemented data systems and Public Portals to manage vendor payments, and Federal Audit compliance. Have a question for him? Contact Darryl at dmwiggins@documentmanagers.us.

Connect with Darryl Wiggins on LinkedIN→


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