My recent blog on the limitations of in-place records management touched on the challenges associated with multiple systems and sites managing records. Today I want to review the definition of compliant records management, discuss the challenges of system connectors, and finally talk about the approach I recommend to the enterprises I work with on a daily basis.

ISO 15489 defines records as “information created, received, and maintained as evidence and information by an organization or person, in pursuance of legal obligations or in the transaction of business.”  Compliant records are those maintained in conformance with the requirements of federal, state and local statutes and regulations. It then follows that the primary objective of any records management system or process should be to bring about the secure preservation of evidentiary documents throughout their lifecycle as required by statutes, regulations, and corporate policies. It is from this perspective the practice of federated or “in-place” records management should be critically examined.

Enterprises today have a unique blend of databases and content management repositories as well as additional third-party applications that can range from off-the-shelf to custom. This all leads to a wide variety of file systems, data types and formats. Today, it is estimated that there are more than 400 content repositories supporting 1,000-plus file formats. According to a recent AIIM survey, 41% of the respondents said they had between 15 and 50 disparate repositories within their enterprise.

Therefore it is not enough for a search technology to simply connect to the repositories through its connectors.  Once connected, it must also have the proper filtering technology to extract content from the assortment of files that reside in the repositories.  In-place management not only extracts text and metadata, but must also preserve and intelligently process all object rules, business intelligence and complex metadata relationships that reside in business applications.

In today’s marketplace, agile software development methodologies employed by most software developers have driven radically higher the number of release events in enterprises. Releases characteristically range between two and 12 months to address source code changes to fix defects, make changes to documentation and data files, and alter peripheral code for test cases or utilities.

Further exacerbating the situation is the number of releases and updates constantly being made to authoring applications which may alter the documents being created.  For example within the last year, Microsoft released three major service packs for the 32-bit editions of Windows XP and two service packs for the 64-bit editions. Such service releases contained a collection of updates, fixes and enhancements, delivered in the form of a single installable package. They also implemented new features that may or may not impact the connector and its ability to accuracy search and retrieve the required record or information.

All of these factors converge to create a highly diverse, dynamic and unstable environment of constant change that complicates an enterprise’s ability to effectively manage the reliable operation of a record management system with many moving parts, dependencies and potential points of failure.

Best practices for managing single-repository RIM

All those moving parts, a lack of control, not to mention the expense, combine to discourage the use of an in-place records management strategy and solution. Those enterprises that require a secure and compliant RIM system should look to a centralized approach for the approximate 5 percent of documents that do need to be managed by a fully compliant RIM. As they do, they should keep in mind these best practices:

1. Automate capture of records whenever possible. Office application add-ins can be used for adding documents to RIM system directly from the native application (Outlook, Word, Excel, Power Point, Access, etc.). Automate business application capture through automated deposit of record output to RIM monitored folder for capture and automatic index and categorization. Use remote capture of specific email addresses for automatic index and categorization and automatic capture, indexing, and categorization of scanned documents and images

2. Consolidate legacy repositories through bulk import of content and metadata through RIM functionality and/or Legacy Archive Processing utilities.

3. Utilize compression to reduce storage requirements of records up to 90 percent.

4. Deploy Systemware Records Manager to provide a single point of access for users to all enterprise content including records, plus system-wide replication for optimized reliability and productivity.