Reasons for RM: scanning

I’ve just completed an AIM survey on scanning and was interested in their “reasons for scanning (pick the top 3)” question:

  • Improve process throughput (productivity)
  • Records security and accessibility (compliance)
  • Improve speed of access (customer service)
  • Improve searchability/findability of business documents (knowledge management)
  • Reduce physical storage space (office costs)
  • Improve resilience to incidents (business continuity)
  • More options for re-location, outsource, etc. (organizational flexibility)
  • Reduce usage of paper and copying (environmental)

I know AIM are the “global association for both users and suppliers of Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solutions” (www.aim.org.uk) and thus are not disinterested parties in selling the benefits of records management, particularly using sophisticated/expensive *solutions* including scanning.  But reading this list made me think again about the broad benefits of managing records for an organisation.

Costs, compliance, and business continuity are reasons we’re very used to seeing/using as recordkeeping professionals.  Productivity and knowledge management are those I think we tend to make claims for based on anecdote rather than quantitative data  – which use of the JISC InfoNet impact calculator may start to change http://www.jiscinfonet.ac.uk/records-management/measuring-impact/impact-calculator/index_html, provided we share the results where possible.  Indeed the project’s literature review  at http://www.jiscinfonet.ac.uk/records-management/measuring-impact/literature-review identified from the evidence base that the evidence we tend to use on efficiency (as opposed to the effectiveness of the RM programme) is nebulous and “not supported by accessible, independent, empirical data”.  I’d agree with this conclusion, and think it is worth trying to explore this broad business benefit of efficiency through these areas identified by AIM – aren’t they all about organisational efficiency?

It’s particularly interesting to think about customer service, organisational flexibility and environmental reasons – these are all key business drivers in my organisation but things I’d currently struggle to measure other than qualitatively.   And yet using the scanning software that goes alongside our edrms IS contributing to the student experience (customer service) and providing services shaped by business needs rather than administrative structures and inherited ways of doing things (flexibility).   Even though both the edrms and the scanning solution are imperfect AND incomplete at present AND slow to roll out and benefit from.  Scanning must also be having an environmental impact too – certainly reducing paper usage but probably affecting electricity consumption (environmental).

And I’m not sure I’ve seen or heard many business cases that include these reasons in their own right.  They didn’t feature in the responses  to the discussion on “What does good records management look like?” started by Lawrence Serewicz last week on the records-management-uk listserv either.  Lawrence wanted to get a broader argument for records management than the “business case” one, saying “..to my mind that simply reduces RM to an economic question.”  The discussion focussed on the nuts and bolts rather than on what, and the general consensus was that good R(I)M shouldn’t “look like” anything as it should be embedded in the organisation’s culture and way of doing things, and thus invisible.

Shouldn’t “good records management” be about serving the organisation and about these wide benefits that AIM have re-articulated here?  So bearing in mind the poor evidence base for supporting such benefits and all the discussion there’s been recently about this, I’m looking forward to trying out the JISC InfoNet impact calculator for real.  I think I might start with scanning.

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