Records Management Conference Wrap-up

Rosemary Cundiff Records Management

Utah State Archives celebrated Records and Information Management Month on April 26th with a successful electronic records management conference. The Archives staff thanks those who participated: speakers, vendors, and attendees. A special thanks goes to Mindy Spring and Joshua Bullough who organized the conference. Following is a recap of some ideas expressed along with links to presentations.


Kenneth Thibodeau, who recently retired from a career at the National Archives, said that nothing is constant except change. He began his career when computers were mainframes and records management was managing forms and correspondence. Ken believes that understanding where we have been as a profession can instruct where we are going. The objective of records managers should be to add value as we ride the waves of change. Ken compared the changing functions of records managers to commercial advertising. Audio advertisements that were very effective on radio were not effective as TV commercials. In turn, television commercials are not effective for internet where tailoring ads to the interests of specific individuals is possible. Likewise, records management approaches must change. Electronic records have replaced file cabinets, and the process is not only changing the way we do things, but changing what we do and who is doing it. As electronic records bring about new capabilities, it behooves records managers to consider their organization’s business purposes and implement technology to support key functions. While there is a tendency to shift records management functions to IT, the records management role is critically important. Records managers understand the organization’s business purposes. They must ensure that the right information gets to the right people at the right time, and only that information. Records managers need the ability to evaluate business needs and then evaluate how technology can be used for solutions. Define the business. Specify the requirements. Analyze the possibilities and then work with technologists to accomplish the organization’s goals. Records managers are well positioned to contribute to the management of digital information and to make sure that technology accomplishes the best mission. Kenneth Thibodeau’s presentation.

James Seeley said that according to a study the electronic data organizations typically maintain, 80% is information that should be deleted, 15% is information that would be good to keep, and 5% must be kept. Duplication of files is part of this challenge. As electronic storage costs drop and the amount of data being stored increases, it is becoming more and more difficult for organizations to manage files saved on shared drives and desktops. Referring to these files as unstructured data, James introduced software that will manage these files regardless of where they are stored. Using metadata that is added when files are created, the software tracks where and when the files are saved, and sends prompts when files meet retention. James’s remarks speak to the point that agencies should be concerned about managing all files and not just the “record copy.” James Seeley’s presentation.

Tad Howington emphasized that records managers must work together with IT, business managers, and legal council to be effective. New technology brings new opportunities and challenges. For example, it may be more effective to think about managing electronic information than records. Technology should add value. For example, it enables instant transactions and efficient processes and makes actions more transparent. However, the current trend, ‘maintaining everything,’ has led to uncontrolled growth of electronic information. Information needs to be managed. Tad referred to two sources of guidance for electronic record management: GARP Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles, and ISO 15489 which is International Standards for records management. Tad suggested several steps to good records management. Begin with a vision. What can you imagine? Solicit input from other stakeholders and come up with a mission. Create a governing council and initiate policies. Records or information must be created, held, discovered, stored, secured, disposed of, and archived, but no one profession has all of the answers to accomplish all this. Records managers are the leaders who can bring everyone together to make it happen. Tad Howington’s presentation.

Philip Favro lightened the end of the day with a discussion of data security and e-discovery. The explosion of electronically stored information is bringing records management, e-discovery, and data security together. The courts expect information to be managed. Additionally, government is required to provide records in response to GRAMA requests. Consistently following a policy of document destruction that meets legal requirements as well as business needs is good practice. Philip discussed some records management challenges: email management, data security and privacy, e-discovery, data storage, and compliance. Implementing best practices means developing processes, assigning ownership, securing funding, and applying the right technologies. Philip Favro’s presentation.