Why the RMA is DEAD

May 09, 2012

By Mark Mandel 

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The Records Management Application (RMA) as defined in days past is now an anachronism.  The traditional RMA was a back-end system that only managed records once they were declared.  This “view from the basement” approach is fraught with issues such as lack of funding, lack of resources, and low organizational priority.

I have been to dozens of seminars and conferences devoted to Records Management and they consistently refer to the RMA as if it is a stand-alone system out of context from the mainline business of an organization.  In today’s world, driven by issues such as eDiscovery, audit readiness and compliance, this is no longer the case.

The industry has transformed from Records Management to Information Governance.  Content must be governed from the time it is created, captured or ingested.  ALL content must be governed, not just declared records.  Transitory records must be explicitly classified so that they can be destroyed according to policy.

This new paradigm, called Content Lifecycle Management, addresses building Information Governance into all mainline business processes.  Enterprise Content Management suites now include Records Management as a subset of functionality so that it is built into the DNA of business transactions in a way that is transparent to end users.  For example, a workflow process supporting a contracts management effort automatically saves all documents into the ECM system, including metadata that is part of the workflow process.  Saved documents are classified automatically according to document type against the retention schedule, using this metadata.  No individual has to “declare” a record; it is done as a function of the business process.

The benefit to the organization is that they now have a full audit trail of each business transaction that can be used for legal discovery, litigation holds, audits, and more.  Transitory documents and email are destroyed according to published policy and therefore the organization benefits from lower storage and discovery costs.  Potentially HUGE cost savings are realized through lower discovery costs, lower sanctions and fines, and via the ramifications of NOT failing audits due to lack of documentation.

Auto Classification and eDiscovery tools are now included in some ECM suites, so organizations can now deploy tightly integrated solutions that encompass the majority of Information Governance requirements.  Business Process Management tools orchestrate business processes to marry business transactions with unstructured content that bridges information silos that include ERP systems such as SAP, custom database applications, email, collaboration tools, mobile and social media.

BPM is a mainline technology that is funded at the highest levels in an organization to improve productivity and lower transaction costs that are essential to most organizations.  Deploying BPM as part of an ECM suite that includes this complete audit trail of transactions and records is now the state of the art in our industry.  RM is essential to this approach, but it is an integrated component, not a stand-alone system.

Yes, the traditional back-end RMA is DEAD.