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Our Perspective on the Profession
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Since starting at ARMA in 2013, I have experienced, along with many practitioners, a bit of confusion around who ARMA serves, where this industry is going and what is the appropriate terminology to use and when. We haven’t always done a great job of answering these questions and defining the terminology, especially to those who may be new to the profession or to those whose role have evolved. This is one area (among many) where ARMA International and I are excited to make some progress. 

As ARMA International’s new CEO, I must confess that I have never been a practitioner of records and information management.  I’ve never been the owner of an information governance program.  I do have quite a bit of experience managing financial records and a long history of assessing and implementing internal controls, with records management components, from the compliance and audit perspective.  I used this background along with the ARMA resources to study for and become an IGP back in 2014 and I’m excited to continue developing my industry knowledge as I maintain my CPEs. 

Also, I will not claim to have a deep-dive knowledge of implementing a RIM or IG program.  Rather, my collective experience as an auditor, financial officer, and association executive in this industry, makes me an expert at asking questions, assessing an environment and seeing the big picture.  Combine this experience with my passion for this profession and community and the result is the forward momentum that I hope everyone practicing or playing a role in this profession feels today. 

So, what have I learned about this industry and ARMA over the last 4+ years?  Well I’ve listened to a lot of experts in the space, I’ve shadowed some professionals in the field, and I’ve asked a lot of questions to solidify my understanding of the core concepts.  Let’s start with the terminology discussion. 

I have found that using the terms Information Assets or Information Management (the role of managing those assets) when discussing the core concepts with a variety of stakeholders and across a variety of cultures resonates much more strongly and more light bulbs go off.  I also see these as the broadest and most relevant terms for what most of our professionals really do in their roles.

From the lifecycle terminology graphic (above) I want to shed some light on those debates about terminology: 

  1. The data certainly must be managed and governed, and while IT professionals can be trained to think about the bigger world of information, it is only successful when the culture of the organization recognizes the difference between data governance and information governance and can separate accountability for managing information from accountability for managing systems.  This is the crutch we often use in our reliance on technology to do it all when it is critical that we have a foundational best practice for governing the information in a holistic way.

  2. Insight can be gleaned from the examination of patterns in data, but the business value of knowledge can’t be fully recognized without expert interpretation of information that is authentic and accessible.  As such, it isn’t sufficient to focus only on the outcomes of the business units or needs of those experts leveraging the information.  The full information lifecycle must be governed, as any other asset would be, to sufficiently mitigate risks and recognize value.   

  3. Inherently, records management is management of all information with particularly special management of the records.  So, to focus your title or role on the records alone you really aren’t representing the breadth of impact you have as a coordinator, manager, director, etc. of your organization’s information

  4. The term ‘records’ is not obsolete.  Existing laws and regulations codify requirements for official records.  As such, ARMA will continue to use the term records when it is appropriate to focus on this subset of information.  When we are referring to the more comprehensive set of information, which includes official records, we will increasingly point to the term information assets as an organization’s most vital assets, which should be managed, secured, and monitored as such.

The graphic addresses the management aspect as we progress from data to information to records and knowledge.  So where does the governance fit in?  Many RIM professionals are already responsible for a significant portion of the governance of an organization’s information.  If you’re setting policy, training end users, and developing a team of professionals to implement your program, you are already getting into the information governance space.  Some of you don’t have a team and are both governing and managing.  It’s not black and white and it’s not always one or the other, which is why it’s such a fun topic to debate!  The merit in distinguishing these terms is to highlight the value in having both.  An Information Governance Professional (IGP) should have ultimate accountability for a comprehensive, cross functional, and mature program for managing the full lifecycle of information.  In addition to the strategic perspective, knowledge, and skills to lead an organization’s information governance initiatives, leverage information for maximum value, reduce costs, and mitigate risks, it is critical for an IGP to have a team of professionals who are responsible for implementing the best practices in managing information.

These concepts are important to us at ARMA, they’re important to the profession, and they should be important to organizations across the board.  As such, if the words aren’t getting through, see below for ARMA’s new Information Governance Industry Core Concepts graphic to better represent ARMA’s current perspective on the industry and all of these important components.

While there are a lot of resources out there and a lot of people talking about information governance, no one has quite captured some of the key elements that are unique to ARMA’s perspective. 

  1. IM is at the center.  We strongly believe that without the fundamental standards, principles, and best practices of managing information as an asset, the full value of an information governance program cannot be recognized, and the inherent risks cannot be fully mitigated.

  2. The next tier in this graphic shows the other critical stakeholders/skill sets that should be represented in a successful IG Program.

  3. The Information Governance Professional is primed to hold ultimate accountability when they have sufficient knowledge in all of these IG segments and a deep dive skill set in multiple segments (with IM being one of them).

  4. The final tier in this graphic represents the value or outputs an organization can leverage when information is governed in this comprehensive way.

  5. Represented by a system of gears, this graphic shows how each of these stakeholders, or professionals with a deep dive skill set in these areas, can work together to produce valuable output, but without an IGP in the center, these gears won’t be synchronized or strategic and opportunities to maximize value and mitigate risk will be missed.

  6. A high-level description of the role each segment plays and how each of these segments relates to ARMA International’s Generally Accepted Record Keeping Principles (The Principles) is a good reminder that we can’t just have these critical stakeholders/skill sets represented but the program has to work towards a maturity that fully addresses the accountability, transparency, integrity, protection, compliance, availability, retention, and disposition, of the information.

With all the diversity in this exciting profession, I hope we can find common ground in ARMA’s comprehensive approach to IG with a critical foundation of IM (which encompasses records management) and rooted in ARMA’s standards and principles.  If you’re not sure or you’re not quite there, stick with ARMA as we work harder from here on out to clarify our position in the profession. I believe it is our collective responsibility to make ARMA’s authentic industry perspective go viral. 

If we can get the ARMA principles, standards, and best practices to be accepted as an integral part of an organization’s success, we can create a new level of collective confidence in all areas where information is impacting the world.

Stay tuned as the ARMA Community and its strategic partners create a movement where these core concepts are widely accepted, the value of our professionals is elevated, and the opportunities for our professionals are expanded!