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Records management: Focus on end-users' jobs

You know the feeling. A bit of panic sets in. You have just received notice of a legal hold, or maybe been asked to collect documents and access records for an audit, or there is a FOIP request that has come your way.

Managing information for an organization is the core responsibility of the information or records manager but everyone creates, modifies and uses the information that needs to be managed. As a records manager have little to no control of how people work and yet your success is predicated on users properly managing their content. You need to make content management easy for your users. It needs to be as seamless as possible.

Having a successful information management program requires you work with all users of content in your organization, understand what they do, and implement strategies that support them in the work they do. The only way you can be successful in managing enterprise content is to ensure employees understand and use the systems and processes that information management requires. Herein lies the ultimate challenge.

Get to know what your end users do and what is important to them

To truly get a good understanding of what your end users jobs are like you need to step out of your work space and go talk with them, watch them work, and ask questions. You will gain so much more insight from this than only doing a content audit.

Determine how they access and interact with information.

  • Are they using laptops on the corporate network or using a tablet at a remote site?
  • Do they have to access content through VPN or other portal solution and how does this affect their experience?
  • Do they complete forms or use templates, and if so what does the download and upload process look like?
  • Is there content access based on business cycles, such as weekly reporting or monthly maintenance activities?
  • Are there any barriers which prevent people from interacting with the content and what workarounds do they use?

Ask employees about other information systems they routinely use. These may be transactional systems such as an accounting database, client management system, cloud solution for document exchange, or software-as-a-service site for tracking and reporting. If information is duplicated across these systems, there is no quicker win than removing duplicated manual effort by looking for a technological solution that can pass information from one system to another.

In addition to knowing what your end users’ jobs’ looks like, find out what is important to them and their team. Ask about departmental or organizational priorities and find a way to help the team address these priorities. Determine what poses the greatest risk to that department’s success and find out what they are getting measured to do.  If you can help the team be successful and get them working in a way that supports information collecting and reporting, you will both win.

Understand your users’ content and how they interact with it

Enterprise content management is about content. It’s about how content is created, updated, shared, accessed, and eventually disposed—but the scope of content in organizations can be broad and fraught with complications. You can look at traditional types of content such as documents, spreadsheets, and presentations but more often you will see this content mixed with, audio, video, images, 3D renderings, drawings, and executable files. Content maybe stored on an internal server, in a remote hosted site, on computer desktops, on removable storage, and a whole combination of other options. Finally, you need to analyze in what ways content is being used and by whom—who is creating it, revising it, reviewing it, approving it or using it for reference.

Your win will come if you can make interactions with content smoother and easier for end users and at the same time collect the records you need. Any change in process or system presents challenges to overcome, but all you need is one or two team members to say is, “Wow, this new system is so much easier to use than <blank>!” Your upfront time and effort in planning and designing the system with the end user in mind will far outweigh the effort needed to unsuccessfully push a cumbersome solution through an organization.

Make your goal to support end users’ jobs

We need to shift our mind set about the way we approach enterprise content management in organizations. One of the important goals is records compliance and although we need to continue to educate and repeat how important records are in an organization, it is not a way to win.

Instead, try these tactics to gain users’ support:

  • Design and build systems for end users which focus on supporting their jobs and collect the records in the background.
  • Reduce friction and enhance the user experience for end users and they will be likely to correctly use the system that collects and maintains records.
  • Help users streamline processes, making them more effective and efficient (anything you do to make them more successful in the eyes of the organization will help win them over)
  • Remember your document management tasks will never be a priority for end users, so for you to be successful you need to sneak in records management while still driving the outcomes they need to achieve.