The Role of the Records Manager in Enterprise Content Management (ECM) Systems

ECM, or Enterprise Content Management, has traditionally been a project led by the Information Technology (IT) department. ECM refers to the technologies and tools used to capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver structured and unstructured content. ECM focuses on ways to improve operational efficiencies, improve workflows, enable electronic searching, and significantly reduce the amount of paper used. Sounds like IT buzzwords to me.

ECM focuses on three challenges:
1. Enhance workforce effectiveness through collaboration, communication, and information sharing.
2. Transform business process through the integration of content and the automation of related processes
3. Optimize the infrastructure for content and compliance through the capture, the archiving, the retention, the discovery, and the retrieval processes.

IT loves ECM as it speaks to technologies, storage, archiving, organizational processes, and unstructured information. To IT, ECM represents the state-of-the-art technology for managing data in a highly efficient manner. So it would seem that it’s a no-brainer that IT should be leading ECM projects, or is it? And it would also seem that IT has a wonderful justification for ECM systems, right? Actually, the answer is “No.” IT generally cannot justify ECM programs on their own. And this is where the records manager can save the day by becoming the business sponsor of the ECM project. Just two cases prove this point. In recent litigation, two large companies suffered losses of $29 million and $600+ million due to inadequate email management systems; put more bluntly, they didn’t have a records management sponsored ECM program in place.

IT Missed the Point
ECM is more than achieving hardware and software efficiencies. The underlying focus of ECM is not on IT efficiencies but on compliance, risk, and ediscovery challenges. Now here’s the rub: While IT may have achieved some data reduction efficiencies with email and document management redundancies, they haven’t touched the critical component of compliance, risk, and ediscovery challenges.

Enter the Amended Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (FRCP).
On December 1, 2006, the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure was amended to include ESI, or electronically stored information. The new rules address the extraordinary increase in information conveyed and stored in electronic format. These amendments related to “electronically stored information” (i.e., information stored on computers or other electronic media) during the discovery phase of litigation. Prior to these amendments, whether electronically stored information should be searched or produced during discovery was a point of confusion and disagreement. The amended rules have resolved this issue.

KEY Component of the Amended Rules for Records Managers
This Federal Rule of Civil Procedure affects all companies, big, small, public, private, or not-for-profit and more importantly, the amendments essentially require records managers to prove to the courts that they have a records management program (including an up-to-date records retention schedule) that is consistently applied to physical and electronic records. Wow, all of a sudden, there becomes a real need for records managers. The proof of this last statement can be found at job boards like CareerBuilder and Monster that now advertise pages upon pages for records management individuals whereas several years ago, you would be lucky to find one position listed in any month.

The Records Manager can Save the Day
The key component of any ECM implementation is how it relates to compliance, risk, and ediscovery. The fact that IT can reduce data redundancies and streamline document storage and backup is secondary.
The key to the success of any ECM program hinges on the implementation of records retention rules on the content controlled by ECM (e.g., email messages, documents, work flows, web content, instant messaging, databases, or flash drives, to name a few). With ECM implemented, the Records Manager can have the best opportunity possible to prove that they are consistently applying their records retention schedule to electronically stored information.

Records Managers can Assure Success for Electronically Stored Information and Assure Success for current and future Filed and anticipated Litigation
All electronically stored information must be matched against the company’s records retention schedule to determine if the information is a record and for how long the information should be retained. ECM is the perfect solution for accomplishing this records management requirement as large ECM vendors (e.g., IBM, EMC, or Interwoven) can offer solutions that address email messages, document management, business process workflows, and web content to name a few. More importantly, these vendors have ediscovery modules to implement legal holds (mechanism to prevent records from being modified or destroyed) across all electronically stored information and even physical records, at the same time. As to the vendors that offer these solutions, you have to do your homework. but be aware that there are companies out there that only offer pieces of this solution such as for email only or web content only.

Why the Records Managers should lead ECM Efforts
The current trend is for Records Managers to lead ECM efforts with IT being a partner in the effort. The mistake is to think that IT can lead the effort with the Records Managers as the secondary partner. Records Managers must have the final say (even administrative rights to the ECM system) to assure that the records retention rules are properly and accurately applied and to assure that the legal holds system is administered only by Records Managers and Litigation Attorneys. More importantly, the Records Managers can serve as the business sponsor and provide the funding for the project in situations where IT would have difficulty justifying the ECM system without the influence of the Records Management program.

In summary, the ediscovery rules have made it clear that electronically stored information, the information on your business’s computers, is discoverable. Therefore, it’s time for your business to become tech-savvy and get prepared because unless your business is immune to litigation, the ediscovery rules will impact it. And the consequences are severe when records are destroyed prematurely because the records retention schedule rules were ignored or nonexistent as they apply to electronically stored information.
My advice to Records Managers is to study different ECM offerings from vendors and attend seminars and conferences given by ARMA and by AIIM to understand the importance of ECM and why you should be leading the effort and not IT.

Stephen B. Page is certified as a records manager since 1989. He is also a certified project manager, certified software quality engineer, and a certified forms consultant. He is currently leading an effort at TransUnion to implement ECM and the components that relate to email messages, document management, records management, and ediscovery. He is an expert in records management and policies and procedures. For more information about Stephen Page, visit his website at:
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3 thoughts on “The Role of the Records Manager in Enterprise Content Management (ECM) Systems”

  1. I do accept as true with all the concepts you have presented to your post. They are very convincing and can certainly work. Still, the posts are too quick for novices. Could you please extend them a bit from next time? Thanks for the post.|

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