Records management = information governance… right? Not so fast.
Today, these two concepts are still frequently confused and used interchangeably. It’s a shame, because in reality they are very different. Records management as it exists currently actually falls under the wider umbrella that is information governance.
History is to blame for our confusion, at least partially.
Records management came first; it is as old as business itself. As soon as companies started to document their dealings and internal operations, the ongoing management of these documents became a necessary function. As the volume of records grew, the maintenance of an orderly system for creating, finding, retaining, and disposing of company information became increasingly crucial. As workplace technology advanced, the volume and variety of items that fall under the “records” classification expanded. It started with electronic files; however, now emails, database information, and social media all encroach upon traditional “records” territory. A record’s lifecycle was once viewed as extending from the point of creation to its eventual disposal. However, with the explosion of enterprise content and increasingly stringent regulatory and compliance mandates, the traditional approach to records management failed to keep up with all the new requirements and data types. In response, a more complete and overarching plan for managing records and information has become necessary to address all phases of a record’s lifecycle. This overarching plan is known as information governance.
Information governance is the set of structures, policies, procedures, processes, and controls implemented to manage information at an enterprise level, supporting an organization's immediate and future regulatory, legal, risk, environmental and operational requirements. It includes records, of course. But it also goes much, much further.
Going beyond basic retention and disposition of documents, information governance encompasses privacy rights, access controls, security classification, management of storage tiers, metadata control, compliance issues, and (increasingly) analytics. Metadata – largely used for classification in records management -- can also be of great value to the enterprise if stored and managed correctly under information governance. Traditional records management concerns itself with the classification, maintenance, and eventual destruction of an item. It’s predominately linear. But information governance is integrative and iterative: making sure that a given piece of data is properly accounted for and coordinated in its lifecycle, no matter who is using or accessing it at any given time. Traditional records management provides an occasional road sign on the information highway, whereas information governance is the all-encompassing rules of the road.
The term information governance has become a major buzzword these days, and for good reason: everyone desires better control of their data. The gospel of “InfoGov” has been spread industry-wide by analysts trumpeting its arrival, companies peddling their own take on it, and vendors packaging tools to tackle the headaches trying to govern all of your enterprise information can bring.
With information governance fervor taking over, ECM vendors are understandably scrambling to reposition their records management products as holistic information governance solutions, when the truth is that they are generally only suited to the task they were originally designed for. It’s tough to overhaul underlying software architecture. The real answer can be a tough pill to swallow; you need a governance environment with software that was built to handle scale and diverse data types to begin with. That’s the philosophy ZL has been devoted to from the get-go, and the feedback we receive from customers only reaffirms the struggle of managing information in an environment that was only built for “traditional” records. We frequently encounter firms who are looking to transition their records point tools to a more centralized control environment, and our compatibility with ECM ingestion and compatibility speaks volumes to that.
By having all of your enterprise data in a unified location, lifecycle management practices, eDiscovery readiness, information risk management, business information lifecycle management, and archiving are all made much simpler. This avoids having to enforce a menagerie of information governance policies across multiple business departments, locations, and other information silos.
So who wins in the “fight” of records management vs. information governance? It’s not really a question anymore. While records may have been the original contender and coach, it’s clear that the rules have evolved, and that the information governance student has now become the teacher.