When it comes to Records Management, it’s important to be familiar with and understand the different implementation patterns for RM that are commonly used (and misused) by RM professionals to implement RM programs in different enterprises. Each pattern has different Pros and Cons and directly impacts the effectiveness and efficiency of RM Command, Control, and Communications functions. This article covers the most common implementation patterns for RM, as well as their pros and cons.
RM Command, Control, and Communications
If you are someone who is responsible for an existing Records Management (RM) program or if you are establishing a new one, you will constantly worry about three dimensions for RM, which are: Command, Control and Communications (often referred to as “C3” or “C-Cubed”).
- Command: Represents how we make effective and efficient RM-related decisions and how we respond to those things like risks, issues, problems, and general challenges that drive such decisions.
- Control: Represents how we design our RM solutions, how we execute and operate them, and how we govern all aspects of RM.
- Communications: Represents how we communicate RM-related data and information (both send and receive), how we educate and train, and how we establish culture.
Understanding the different implementation patterns for RM is important because the one you select (or are sometimes handed) for implementation will directly influence how you Command, how you Control, and how you Communicate, and will therefore directly impact the successes or failures of your RM program.
Important Influencing Factors for Records Management
Before getting into the implementation patterns for RM, it’s beneficial to quickly discuss some important factors you and your enterprise should be aware of that directly impact the decisions made for which RM implementation pattern is selected or not selected by and an enterprise. These factors include:
- Size of the Enterprise: An enterprise that is composed of a very small number of people who can easily communicate with each other will have very different needs than an enterprise that has many tens of thousands of people, most of whom don’t know each other, let alone what their roles and responsibilities are for that enterprise.
- Geography of the Enterprise: An enterprise where people are all in one building or within easy commuting distance of each other will have very different needs than one that is geographically spread across many different locations and facilities which are not easy to get to.
- Industry of Enterprise Operations: Certain industries, such as healthcare or pharmaceutical, have very different legal and regulatory constraints than other industries, such as retail or education. The industry you operate in will directly impact how you value each of the implementation patterns for RM.
- Frequency of Records Creation and Change: How frequently Records are created, changed, moved, and destroyed has a direct impact on implementation patterns for RM. Records that are created or need to change very infrequently might have a chance at being collected and managed with little automation, whereas Records that are created and changed with very high frequencies almost always require significant investments in automation to help control them.
- Quantity of Records Created: The quantity of Records created and changed influences implementation patterns because small quantities of Records may be easily created, stored, destroyed, and tracked with little investment in time and money, while very large quantities might require heavy investments in people’s time, automated systems, and storage facilities.
Note: It is considered a best practice to independently measure and evaluate each and every one of the above factors, both, separately and against each other before selecting the implementation pattern that you believe is best for your enterprise.
Records Management Activities
For reference and so as not to repeat ourselves, when we refer to Records Management Activities or Records Management Functions, we are referring to activities such as but not limited to:
- Setting and Controlling RM Scope,
- Defining and Setting RM Policies, Standards, Best Practices, Processes, and Procedures,
- Selecting and Implementing Appropriate RM Tools and Technologies,
- Data and Information Collection About Records and RM,
- Records Curation (e.g. identifying, formatting, classifying, organizing, etc.),
- Records Storage and Persistence,
- Records Discovery, Retrieval, and Access,
- Records Security,
- Records Deletion, Disposal, and Destruction,
- Records Tracking (throughout Records’ life cycles),
- Records Reporting
- RM Communications (both, to and from any and all relevant RM stakeholders),
- Justifying and Securing RM Funding,
- RM Governance,
For those with significant RM experience, it is clear that the above list does not represent all RM activities but it does provide the novice reader with a general understanding of what it means to establish and perform RM.
The most common implementation patterns for RM
There are three recognized patterns for implementation of Records Management programs in different enterprises. They are:
- A Centralized pattern for RM implementation
- A Federated pattern for RM implementation
- A Hybrid pattern for RM implementation
1. Centralized Implementation Pattern for RM
In this pattern or model, one centralized organization (possibly even an organization composed of one person) has full control, responsibility, and accountability for all RM Activities. Other people in other organizations may, unknowingly or knowingly, create, manipulate, and destroy Records but it is up to the Centralized RM Organization to perform the work of integrating such Records into the RM program, tracking them, and maintaining them, according to RM stakeholder requirements. The ownership, accountability and responsibilities for the bulk of all RM Activities are in one centralized organization.
The Pros (of a Centralized pattern):
The Centralized Pattern has the following advantages:
- Everyone knows who owns, is accountable for, and can assist with RM.
- It has the advantages of full decision making and execution control.
- It has the most flexibility for quickly changing different aspects of RM.
- It has the highest levels of transparency for things like RM dependencies and costs.
- It works well for very small enterprises.
The Cons (of a Centralized pattern):
The Centralized Pattern has the following disadvantages:
- It usually has very limited resources available to it.
- One person or organization can only do so much work before things start to break down and, as workload increases, it becomes very difficult to keep up and scale up.
- The burden of all responsibilities and all work are on the centralized person or organization.
- The model/pattern does not scale well for medium and large enterprises.
- Enterprise-side communications of RM related topics and issues works well for very small enterprises but starts to fail and meet significant challenges as the enterprise grows.
- Other people and organizations, outside the organization performing RM work, tend to forget about RM and its importance to the enterprise.
- Trying to get others to help becomes very difficult.
We tend to see the Centralized implementation pattern established in small-to-mid-sized enterprise that have significant RM requirements. Smaller enterprises establish the pattern because they can do so with little effort and because they have no real requirements to scale up any further. We see this pattern in mid-sized enterprises that know RM is important but that are more than likely struggling to scale up, usually resulting in lower RM maturity.
2. Federated Implementation Pattern for RM
Unlike the Centralized implementation pattern, where control and accountability are all in one place, this model places separate control and accountability for RM on each and every organization that has some stake in RM, as it pertains to the organization. In other words, different organizations own, implement, operate and govern RM practices and solutions, themselves, according to their own RM requirements and needs. In this pattern, there might be an RM person or small group that is responsible for communicating what needs to be controlled, what regulations are being imposed on the enterprise, etc., but the bulk of RM is left to each organizational silo. In this pattern, each operational area of the enterprise adapts to RM the way they see fit to do so and they adopt whatever solutions they see fit to do so.
The Pros (of a Federated pattern):
The Federated Pattern has the following advantages:
- Each organizational silo has decision, implementation, operations, and governance autonomy, meaning they control what they do, how they do it, and when they do it.
- Organizational silos can use the tools and technologies they’re most familiar with.
- There is far less logistical overhead for RM within any single organizational silo.
- Organizational silos can change and adjust to their RM needs at their own paces.
The Cons (of a Federated pattern):
The Federated Pattern has the following disadvantages:
- It becomes very difficult to maintain consistent operational discipline across different organizational silos.
- It becomes difficult to align each organizational silo to work together on larger RM efforts, such as in the cases of litigation against the enterprise or government audits. (The term often used is, “Herding Cats.“)
- Transparency into RM operations, across all organizational silos, becomes very difficult.
- It becomes almost impossible to control RM costs/expenses across organizational silos. This means that because every organization has its own solutions for RM, your total enterprise costs for RM will almost always be much higher than in other models.
- Because of the distributed nature of this pattern, it takes much longer time to collect Records-related information for roll-up and presentation to litigators and auditors.
- There are often higher levels of inefficient redundancy as different organizations store, track, and manage the same sets of Records, different ways.
- Maintaining RM deliverables quality is very complicated, time consuming, and expensive because it is difficult to merge results across organizational silos that work and represent things, different ways.
- Unless the enterprise has a highly mature general enterprise-wide communications solution, general RM communications across federated groups is very difficult.
We tend to see the Federated implementation pattern established in mid-sized-to-large enterprise that believe RM is not that high of a priority to them, possibly because it really isn’t or possibly because they haven’t been significantly impacted by litigation or government audits, yet.
2. Hybrid Implementation Pattern for RM
This pattern is a combination of the Centralized and Federated implementation patterns. In the Hybrid implementation pattern for RM, the enterprise establishes a centralized organization that clearly owns and is accountable for RM. However, the centralized organization does not have accountability for performing all the RM work, especially at the Records-level, which is delegated to the individual silo-ed or federated organizations. The centralized organization owns all command, control, and communications, and it works to coordinate work across and within each of the federated organizations, which act as operational or execution arms of the centralized organization. This model follows the patterns most often used by large military organizations that must maintain successful levels of control across vastly diverse geographies. While the centralized organization is held accountable for the formal discipline of Records Management, each of the federated organizations is responsible for localized execution and is held wholly accountable for their RM responsibilities, including the Records they help generate, modify, move, and/or destroy.
The Pros (of a Hybrid pattern):
The Hybrid Pattern has the following advantages:
- Everyone has an accountable stake in RM and works together.
- Everyone working together translates to more people working to generate higher quality and higher quantities of RM deliverables.
- Everyone works to consistently report on and control Records, themselves.
- Because everyone is working together, it becomes easier to see and control RM costs.
- Because all organizations work together, enterprise-wide RM communications is far more successful. The message is broadcasted from the centralized RM organization and then rebroadcasted, local/regional levels, by the federated organizations that also have a stake in RM.
The Cons (of a Hybrid pattern):
The Hybrid Pattern has the following disadvantages:
- The Hybrid implementation pattern must be sold to and fully backed by executive management, which is not always easy to achieve.
- It becomes difficult to maintain consistency and discipline across federated organizations.
- Processes for interactions between organizations need to be very clearly defined, clearly communicated, and fully adopted.
- There is far more work that needs to go into command, control, and communications for RM.
We tend to see the Hybrid implementation pattern established in high-functioning mid-sized-to-very-large enterprises that have very significant RM requirements and that have worked to establish repeatable RM solutions with higher levels of RM maturity.
The Benefits of Understanding Your RM Implementation Pattern
Understanding your desired or existing implementation pattern will help you better communicate with those critical stakeholders who sponsor, fund, and direct your RM efforts as well is with those stakeholders who have a stake in execution, operations, and governance work.
Understanding the different implementation patterns for RM and, more specifically, the one you select to implement for your own RM implementation will also help you with the more detailed aspects of RM work, such as but not limited to:
- Strategy setting and Roadmap development,
- Establishing consistent communications,
- Design and communications of RM policies, standards, best practices, processes and procedures,
- Change management (organizational change management, operational change management, technology change management, etc.),
- Defining work-related initiatives, programs, projects, and tasks,
- Training and Education of RM related topics,
- Technology and Tools selection and adoption,
- Developing RM operations and support plans (e.g. for handling things like risks and incidents),
The RM pattern you pick will directly influence each of the above so it is recommended you know and understand your pattern before you go down the path of trying to select and implement solutions that might be difficult to change, later.
Summary and Conclusions
There is a limited and clear set of implementation patterns for RM that RM stakeholders must consider when designing their RM program. These patterns represent:
- A centralized model for RM implementation,
- A federated model for RM implementation, and
- A hybrid model for RM implementation.
Each pattern or model has its advantages and disadvantages and is influenced by a number of different factors (refer to list, cited further above).
Whether you are deciding to implement RM for the first time or whether you are looking for a new pattern to migrate to, it is highly recommended that you and your RM stakeholders take the time to carefully consider and evaluate each factor with appropriate levels of due diligence, as the pattern you pick will directly impact many other decisions you make, both, about and for your RM program.
- Understanding Record Types and Categories
- Using a Steering Committee for Records Management Ownership
- Records Management Control Grid (RMCG) for establishing Records Management