Monday, 5 November 2012

Federated Records Management – is it a viable alternative to centralized records management?

The unabated proliferation of content and EDRMS applications that manage it poses a daunting challenge from a records management perspective. Should records be managed in one central environment or should they be federated across disparate content management repositories?  An AIIM research paper on the State of the ECM Industry found that on average 40% of organizations have three or more EDRMS systems deployed. 74% of organizations surveyed use SharePoint for collaboration.  While SharePoint continues to improve its records management functionality, 44%  of organizations are deploying it in conjunctions with more robust ECM applications with a proven heritage in records management capabilities that meet  rigorous RM standards such as ICA Module 2 and DoD5015.2.
There are a number of trade-offs to be considered in assessing the merits of centralized versus federated records management approach.  In a centralized or unified RM implementation there is “one system of record” where all records are classified, declared and where retention and disposition rules are managed.  In a federated RM implementation records are maintained in "their” native repositories, but manage them centrally. That way, the records do not need to be physically moved into a single location, yet a single set of retention rules can be applied. Records are ‘virtualized’ so that they all appear to be within the federated records management application, from which they can be searched, placed on hold, or acted on in other ways.”   A clear benefit of a federated records management approach is that it empowers organizations to preserve existing investments in EDRMS systems.
On the other hand the challenge posed by federated records management is harmonizing or orchestrating records management functions between disparate EDRMS repositories. Such coordination necessitates a high degree of process automation.  “Federated technology will use software algorithms to determine when a document becomes a record. The overall goal is to automate the human judgment and discipline that can make recordkeeping work properly”. Harmonization of meta-data and classification rules need to be effectively implemented in order to avoid inconsistent retention schedules which may result in loss of confidence in disposition processes.
The total cost of ownership associated with a federated records management approach may be prohibitive as well as too complex to maintain given the need for different EDRMS application software expertise. In such as case it may be prudent to opt for a unified records management approach.   In this scenario a single EDRMS repository manages documents, applies the retention and disposition schedules and processes.  There may be two possible approaches. One, to deploy a single EDRMS platform that manages end-to-end content life cycle processes including records.  The other option is a hybrid solution where there may be more than one EDRMS applications deployed however only one is designated as a formal system of record.  Documents deemed as records are “moved” to a centralized RIM repository. For example SharePoint may be used as a team collaboration platform where transitory documents are authored, versioned, shared and processed.   Once a document is deemed as a record it is profiled, declared and classified to the “records center” and from there moved to the RIM application where formal retention and disposition rules are applied and managed.
A hybrid records management implementation strategy is under consideration within the Government of Canada. While Open Text Content Server 2010 is the sanctioned EDRMS platform several departments have also deployed SharePoint as a collaboration platform. In order to preserve such investments while complying with the Government of Canada functional requirements for record keeping based on the ICA Module 2 standard departments are exploring the merits of a hybrid solution.
Bruce Miller of has recently released a comprehensive study endorsed by Open Text which provides best practices associated with a hybrid RIM implementation based on OpenText’s solution called AGA, or Application Governance & Archiving.  AGA allows the two platforms to be integrated. The report may be accessed here.
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