Abstract: New Records Managers and Records Management Organizations often have a difficult time understanding what Records Types they should track and what data they should track about such Records Types. The IF4IT has worked with numerous enterprises to develop a simple Records Management Command, Control and Communications Grid (a.k.a. RM Control Grid) that can be used to help ramp up and control such efforts.
Best Practice: Use a RM Control Grid
Records Managers use RM Control Grids to help with command, control and communications (CCC) functions associated with various Records Types and their respective Record Instances.
The RM Control Grid helps with CCC functions in the following manner:
- Command: Command is about knowing the facts of Records Management. Experienced Records Managers know to collect and maintain as many relevant facts as possible for each and every Record Type and all related Record Instances of any specific Record Type. The control grid helps layout a framework and structure for collecting and organizing the types of facts that are important to a Records Manager, a Records Management Organization and any enterprise that cares about Records Management as a discipline.
- Control: Once a Records Manager has started to collect and organize facts about Records Types and Record Instances, it becomes easier to exercise control over such Records related information. The Records Manager, with the assistance of other RM Stakeholders, will be able to constantly evaluate the facts for the purpose of RM related decision making. The goal is to achieve better facts through better processes that come from better decisions. Better control comes from better command of your RM data. Command of your data starts with RM data collection.
- Communications: Once a Records Manager has collected facts and can start to control the RM landscape, he/she will use that data to communicate what he/she knows and is controlling to all relevant RM stakeholders. As the RM Control Grid improves, the Records Manager can communicate current state and future state information, along with strategies and tactics for transitions from current state to future state. The Records Manager can even use the grid as a simple color-coded Dashboard that communicates things like status, priorities, issues, maturity and ongoing work.
RM Control Grid Basics
The most important things to understand about an RM Control Grid is that they’re two-dimensional. In other words, they’re commonly structured as two-dimensional tables.
- Vertically (i.e. Rows), RM Control Grids are used to identify Record Types. Each row in the grid acts as a representation for a specific Record Type and can be as course or as fine as you need it to be. NOTE: You can use a Taxonomy of Record Types as a starting point for the types of Records you may want to control for your enterprise.
- Horizontally (i.e. Columns), RM Control Grids are used to identify data about Record Types. Each column is labeled with a Control Attribute and acts as a data attribute or field that should be collected and maintained for each Record Type that is represented by an individual row.
Control Attributes, also known as Control Fields, are metadata that act as labels for the data that is being collected about Record Types. Some examples include but are not limited to:
- Record Type
- Unique Alphanumeric Identifier
- Unique Semantic Identifier
- Composition Type (e.g. Paper or Digital)
- Link to Related Policies
- Minimum Retention Period
Collecting the data associated with such Control Attributes helps drive maturity and improve communications. For example, once you collect all your “Composition Type” data, you will be able to communicate what percentage of your Record Types and Records are Paper vs. Digital. Or, as you collect the data for “Link to Related Policies,” you and your enterprise will know which Record Types do or do not have documented policies (a topic that almost all Chief Information Security Officers / CISOs will want to know about).
It’s About Records Management Maturity
We perform RM command, control and communications functions for numerous reasons. However, at the core it’s all about Records Management Maturity. As we collect and improve the data we use to command, control and communicate our Records Management efforts we are, by default, maturing such efforts. The more data an enterprise collects, the more its RM efforts mature. The more an enterprise improves the quality of its data, the more its efforts mature. With higher levels of maturity come higher levels of success and, over time, managing Records and Record Types should become more straightforward.
Spreadsheets vs. More Advanced RM Tools
Whether you use a spreadsheet or a more advanced RM tool is determined by the RM maturity of your enterprise and the level of funding it wishes to invest in managing its records. Many enterprises start with RM Control Grids and, as they mature, use the structure and the contents of such control grids to setup and populate RM tools they establish, at a later date.
Alignment With Enterprise Information Management (EIM) Efforts
Seasoned RM leaders even use their RM Grids to drive, align with, and govern the Enterprise Information that is collected, controlled and communicated in other parts of their enterprises. They’ll use RM Control Grids to align data and information other enterprise tools, such as their Intranets, Digital Libraries, Service Catalogs, Architecture Modeling Tools (AMTs) and even their Configuration Management Databases (CMDBs).
Examples: In the following Digital Library Example, you can see all Record Types listed along the left hand side of every page and in it’s Master Catalog. You can even see detailed Inventories and Individual Records of the Records you’re trying to constantly track, audit and govern. Which records you publish openly or privately will be up to you and your enterprise.
The IF4IT RM Control Grid
The IF4IT has worked with numerous enterprises that span private commercial companies and public government agencies to collect common information that should go into most RM Control Grids. We’ve aggregated, cleansed and compiled the information to create a reusable template that you can download and use as a starting point for your own Records Management Program.
If you’re a new Records Manager, you can use it to help you build out and establish your new RM Program from its inception. If you’re an experienced Records Manager, you can use it to reconcile and test against what you already have, in order to help improve the work you’re already doing.