Peanut butter and jelly, bacon and eggs, the cloud and record retention schedules, some things just go together. Yes, that last one may not be as obvious as the classic combinations, but it’s just as well matched. I came to records management inadvertently as an industry consultant for a large technology company and found the retention schedule as the perfect metaphor for a range information governance disciplines, or so I thought. In the abstract a retention schedule is a classification scheme to which policy is applied; same for privacy, security, transfer, etc. However, I envisioned the creation, maintenance and implementation of a retention schedule as a fundamentally collaborative endeavor. This is where a paper based reality met my technology dreams and dashed them.
As I delved deeper into the practice of records management, I found that most if not all retention schedules were paper based documents, spreadsheets or simple databases found on shared drives and intranet sites. While these formats were sufficient for the retention schedule as an instrument of the written policy, they are not well suited for collecting and maintaining the amount of institutional and external knowledge required for truly relevant classification scheme, and for extending that scheme to build record inventories, data source catalogues and to keep it all up to date with changing law and regulation. Enter The Cloud.
The advertised advantages of a cloud model (def: a technology deployment model where data, computing resources, hardware and software are stored and accessed over the Internet) often center on IT benefits like total cost of ownership, scalability, and disaster recovery. In our flavor of Cloud computing, which is Software as a Service; we see the benefit as its ability to enable collaboration. Collaboration to build, validate and hone classification schemes, compile thesauri of record types, maintain data source catalogues, and collect and respond to user feedback and questions. Taking it a step further, we leveraged the cloud to enable mass collaboration around building and maintaining a global legal research catalogue.
The marriage of the cloud and the record retention schedule has been a successful one but we’ve only scratched the surface of what can be done with a ubiquitous, collaborative computing platform. The best is really yet to come as we look to the potential use cases such as sharing anonymized information across clients or the role of the retention schedule in service oriented architectures.
If you’re coming to MER2015 in Chicago next month, I’d welcome the opportunity show you how a cloud-based retention schedule can benefit your organization. I’ll bring the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.