All organizations produce records, but the role that records play in organizational processes is not always recognized.
Steps in the process may be poorly laid out, or the process may contain extra steps, vestiges of earlier departments, or no longer needed requirements. Often archivists and records managers are told that specific documentation (often in hard copy) was created because records management requires it, even though no such requirement exists. Archivists and records managers should be experts in the documentation needed for each business process to satisfy internal and external conditions, which is their significant contribution to supporting business change. They should understand which of the documentation steps are required, optional, or simply convenient. It is up to archivists, records managers, and other information professionals to advise in these areas. Otherwise, business owners and others will always opt for creating and maintaining everything since they cannot be sure what is necessary.
Three Major Changes
Archivists and records managers get involved in business change at three points. The first is the creation of new business processes or systems to support them, where they help identify the requirements for documentation and how creating the documentation can be integrated into the process as seamlessly as possible. The second is the reengineering of business processes, where the focus is on improving the operational efficiency and effectiveness of the process while maintaining good enough recordkeeping. The third is mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, and closures, where records must be brought together, divided, or disposed of in ways that maintain their ability to meet future recordkeeping needs.
Archivists and records managers assist in making the business process as effective and efficient as possible, contributing to organizational success. Seven areas where archives and records management can help organizations include:
- Improving operational efficiency
- Reducing costs
- Improving customer service
- Enhancing regulatory compliance
- Driving faster time to market
- Helping grow revenue
- Increasing competitive advantage
These activities may be easier for paper records than electronic ones. However, most organizations have vast amounts of unstructured data, almost always poorly described, that must be managed. Applications that create and maintain business transaction records and business records are of the most interest, but records that document intellectual property are of equal importance and often not easily recoverable. In any case, there will be a large volume of digital objects that will have to be dealt with somehow. Dumping the accumulated records of the organization on information professionals only delays the difficult decisions about what to keep and what can be set for disposal. Making an intelligent decision will take a team effort, led by archivists and records managers but cross-cutting concerning organizations and expertise.
No matter what organizational change is taking place, change management will play an essential role in the success of the process. Change management is a systematic methodology for supporting employees as an institution transitions to new processes, tools, or initiatives. Even a slight change in an organization can lead to fear and frustration among the staff if the change is managed poorly. However, a well-thought-out change management process can help a company make needed adjustments smoothly and successfully.
Many organizational change initiatives have failed because of the lack of attention to the management of the changes and attention to the needs of the staff who are the ones most affected. Especially when the change involves automating the creation and management of records and other information assets, staff resistance is the most frequent cause of system breakdowns.
Competitive businesses must adjust priorities, adopt new processes, and pivot more frequently. Because these adjustments can be disruptive to the people within an organization, any business that wants to transition successfully should make managing change a core competency. Helping to manage change—and the records that change creates—is the domain of information professionals.
Archivists embrace the digital world as they transform their physical holdings into electronic records through digitization projects.
Archivists have entered the digital decisive moment; digitized and born-digital images have substantially departed from the legacy of analog materials.
Archivists can accelerate gains from digitization by presenting a business case for digital transformation to those who lead their organizations.
Increases in remote working, changing needs, and user preferences for remote research have made digitization of archival holdings a priority.