The core components of the new generation of records management/information governance tools

In my last post I drew a distinction between two generations of records management tools:

  • The first generation of tools are those that hit the market between 1997 and 2009 and we called them electronic document and records management (EDRM) systems
  • The second generation are those that hit the market after 2009 and we seem to be calling them information governance tools

In this post I will look again at this distinction – this time comparing the components and capabilities of the old EDRM systems with the components and capabilities of the newer information governance tools.

The core components of the first generation of records management tools (EDRM systems)

The first generation of tools consisted of six core components/capabilities:

  • an end- user interface  to allow end-users to directly upload documents to the system
  • an integration with the e-mail client (usually Outlook) to allow end-users to drag and drop e-mails into folders within the system
  • document management features:  such as version control, check-in and check out, generic workflows and configurable workflow capabilities
  • a repository:  to store any type of documentation that the organisation might produce
  • classification and retention rules:  capability to hold, link together and apply a records classification (business classification scheme) and a set of retention rules
  • records protection – capability to protect records from amendment and deletion and maintain an audit trail of events in the life of that record

When implementing  such EDRM systems the records managers drew a ‘line in the sand’.  They aimed to implement  a system that would manage records going forward in time.  They did not attempt to deal with legacy content that had already accumulated on shared drives and in email.

The weakness of EDRM systems was that end users did not move all or most significant content into the records system.  Shared drives and e-mails continued to grow and continued to contain important content not captured into the records system.

Added to this a range of disruptions happened:

  • Microsoft’s entry into the content management space with SharePoint 2007 took away the collaboration space from the EDRM systems.   Unless they had complex requirements, organisations with SharePoint no longer needed the version control, check-in check out or workflow capabilities of the EDRM tools.
  • E- discovery/freedom of information/subject access enquiries caused more and more pain to organisations, and tended to focus on material in e-mail and shared drives rather than content in the EDRM
  • The move to smart phones and tablets made the user-interface problematic – smartphones have screens that are too small for the full functionality of an EDRM end-user interface.
  • The move to the cloud made e-mail integration problematic – cloud e-mail services do not allow customisation of their user-interface.

The seven core components of the new generation of records management/information governance tools

The second generation of records management tools, which we are calling information governance tools, consists of seven key capabilities:

  • Indexing engine  the ability to crawl and index content in many different applications and repositories (shared drives, SharePoint, e-mail servers, line of business systems etc)
  • Connectors  a set of connectors to the most common applications and repositories in use in organisations today (SharePoint, Exchange, ECM/EDRM systems etc).   The connectors enable the records system to take action on content in a target repository – for example to delete, move or place a legal hold on it.  They also enable the crawler to extract context to index.
  • Metadata enhancement and auto-classification the ability to add, through the connectors, extra metadata fields to content, and the ability to assign content to a classification either by setting rules based on parameters, or by using auto classification algorithms
  • Analytics dashboard to surface patterns in content repositories, for example to identify duplication, redundancy, trivia and high risk content
  • Classification and retention capability to hold and apply a records classification and a set of retention rules   – this is the main point of continuity between the first and second generation of records management tools.
  • In-place records management  the capability to protect records from amendment and deletion, maintain an audit trail of events in the life of that record, and assign a retention and classification rule to the record, even where the record is held in a different application than the records system itself.  From the end-user point of view this has the advantage that they can stay in the applications they are used to work in – they do not have to learn how to use the records system.
  • Repository  a repository to store any type of documentation that the organisation might produce .   The in-place records management features reduce,  but do not eliminate the need for a records repository.  Records repositories are necessary when an organisation wants to decommission an application, but still wants to retain the content from that application.  In cloud scenarios the repository comes in useful when the organisation wants the content to be available via a cloud application but not stored by the cloud provider

Notice what has been taken away and what has been added:

  • The components that an end-user interacted with – the end-user interface and the document management functionality, have either disappeared entirely or become an optional extra.
  • What comes in their place is the connectors,  indexing engine,  analytics and in-place records management capability necessary in order for a central administrator to understand and act on content held outside of the records system itself


The importance of the analytics dashboard

The key difference between the new generation of information governance tools and the old generation of EDRM systems is that the information governance tools pay as much (often more) attention to existing content as they do to shaping the way future content will accumulate.

The most stark illustration of the change is this:

  • ten years ago if you saw a system demonstration by a vendor at a records management event they would start by showing you their end-user interface for an individual to upload a document.
  • In 2014 a vendor will start by showing you their analytics dashboard

The analytics dashboard is the key to the new generation of  records management/information governance tools

Without the dashboard having an indexing engine crawling across shared drives, e-mail and SharePoint would be useless to the records manager.

The dashboard enables the records manager to actively interrogate the index to hone in on targets for action – information that should be deleted/moved/protected/classified/assigned to a retention rule etc.

392-analytics 1

A typical dashboard shows the records manager  how much content is held. where it is held, what file types there are, what departments it belong to,  what is redundant/outdated/trivial etc.   The dashboard also enables the records manager to use these different dimensions in connection with each other – for example to hone in on content of a particular department in a particular time period.

These are powerful tools in the hands of a central administrator, and it is important that they have workflows and audit trails in them so that:

  • the records manager can get the approval of content owners before making disposal decisions on content
  • the system can record that approval, and record the actioning of the decision

Note however that these tools are more effective at helping records managers make decisions on content that has build up in the shared drive and SharePoint environment than they are at dealing with content that has built up in e-mail accounts.

One of the challenges with EDRM systems was that it was very hard to measure benefit and give a tangible ROI.   The  business case for the new infromation governance tools often arises from savings produced by dealing with legacy data – something that the EDRM systems were not set up to do.  The ROI might come from:

  • savings from storage optimisation (moving less active content to second or third tier storage)
  • savings from reduction of content that has to be reviewed for eDiscovery/access to information requests

The benefits might be

  • capability to move content from legacy applications
  • capability to process the shared drives of functions acquired or divested in mergers and acquisitions

At the ARMA Europe conference last month Richard Hale from Active Navigation and Lee Meyrick from Nuix both gave presentations urging records professionals to be pragmatic and concentrate on targeting particular improvements one at a time.  The dashboard suits that approach – gone is the utopian wish to create a perfect records system, instead we have an incremental approach whereby a central administrators hones in on particular areas of content for protection/enhancement/migration.

4 thoughts on “The core components of the new generation of records management/information governance tools

  1. Excellent! James you hit the nail on the head with the seven core components of next gen RM!

  2. Absolutely terrific post, James. Well done.

    Those of us in the Next Generation Records Management community don’t completely agree on much, but we all firmly believe that the way we do our jobs and the manner in which we support our organizations is changing radically.

    And that change is not just reflected in the tools we use, as you describe above. But also in the new methodologies we develop and the updated philosophical approaches to information lifecycle management given the exponential growth of today’s technology.

    Oh, and by the way, I really appreciate that you refer to these products as ‘tools’ and not ‘solutions’. Product vendors seem to love to promote their products as solutions when they are, in fact, merely tools that can be leveraged to build solutions – and only after a great deal of hard work.

    Regards from my side of the pond,

  3. What are some examples of the new generation of IG tools and how do they relate to/differ from “ECM” tools?

    1. Hi Carolyn – some examples of the IG tools are tools with strong analytics capabilities such as Nuix, Active Navigation and HP Control Point; tools with strong policy, classification and lifecycle management capabilities such as RSD Glass; and tools that extend SharePoint’s capabilities such as those offered by Automated Intelligence, Gimmal, Collabware and RecordPoint. The big difference between all of these tools and the previous generation of ECM tools is that none of these tools has a repository – the content is stored in existing repositories of the organisation.

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