This geezer had worked for this organisation since he was 19 and now he had two years to go before calling worklife a day. Over the years he had seen the company rise and fall and rise again. No matter what happened, his position was cemented in the organisation. He was guaranteed a next life whenever the organisation went to its knees. He felt indispensable. Why?
When Jacob joined this organisation he did not have any knowledge of record keeping. He learnt, just like a majority of clerical officers in Kenya on-the-job ( a better way of saying “I” am as raw as a fish out water, please get me out of this job”), from his boss who had also learnt on-the-job. No one sought to verify what these people had “learnt” which they seem to pass down the next crop of officer like mitochondria in a gene. No body questioned and could provide any plausible explanation to the existence and ferocity of such knowledge. Besides, it worked.
And this is how it worked: the company had all its workers running Fiefdoms of information keeping A department head owned the files in their departments. Few files were reaching Jacob, the Central Registry clerk. Besides, there was no complexity in the way they kept the files as the organisation discouraged too much information in its cadres. Research was unheard of and thus data collection, analysis and representation were a thousand dreams away.
At the central registry, Jacob knew every single file off-head. He manipulated them in so
many ways to ensure that he did not have lots of paperwork. This he did by pulling out material he did not understand. To the management, he was the file guru and therefore if a file was missing, then ‘it was simply missing, so forget about it and let Jacob build another file’. Part of what Jacob manipulated was information contained in the files. He would add, remove, and distort information to suit him. The dept heads did not bother with Jacobs work since they did not need his services any way. So he found himself in a strange position where no body really needed him but by the virtue of his position, the organisation had every reason to have him at the Central Regisrty- besides, which organisation does not have one? It is no wonder, he survived the entire previous employee purging by the company.
The coming in of new management ushered in a new approach into the way information was created, used, shared, maintained, and disposed. There was great need for accountability to the shareholders who were getting concerned about the organisation’s ups and down as that was affecting the shares in the stock exchange. Heads had to roll and the first action was to initiate a systematic Records Management Program (RMP). To do this, they had to first come ip with a Policy to manage all the information that the enterprise owned. An Information/ Records Management policy that covered manual as well as electronic/ digital records was in no time formulated and put operational. Since Jacob had very little knowledge in the new way of managing records, he had to give way to the new records gurus. Armed with their tool of trade (Information/records management Policy), the Records Managers systematically started off with Information Audit– To establish what information the organisation had, in what condition, format, where it was, who was in charge, what information was vital to the organisation, what was simply rubbish/junk, the classes / subjects /functions that the information related to, how long different types of information would be required…. and so on.
The task by these young, energetic and foresighted records masters was so thorough, it left Jacob’s foggy brain numb. The next move was appraisal, i.e. physically examining each information container (e.g. Files) to establish its value to the organisation. When they got at Jacob’s office, they discovered that 3/4 of all his files were not important at all and yet he hanged on them all these years. These files had to be destroyed. 1/3 of the remaining ones were of archival nature and needed to be moved to the archives and the other 1/3 was to be shifted to the records centre since there use was so staggered, it did not make economic and efficacy sense to maintain them in his office.
The next stage was for these records/information wiz to come with inviolable procedure to guide every employee in creation, use and disposal of records. This was going to be the company’s Information Lifecycle Management (ILM) which governed every piece of information created or received by the organisation. This cradle to grave management of the organisation had to be guided and well directed so as to take root if it were to bear fruit within the organisation. As expected there was resistance within the organisation hierarchy but since there was top management support, the system took root. All records/ information held in the organisation electronic and manual systems were now under control. To ensure that everyone knew what they were expected to do with the new way for doing things, series of training were held within and without the organisation, incentives and reminder systems were also deployed to ensure that the culture took root.
Information sharing: A new and vibrant way of knowing what each person was doing was implemented. With more and more information turning up in electronic format (born digital) and the rest having been digitized (born again), the staff of this company found themselves getting better and better and finding workplace the best place to be. Information sharing ushered in a new era of dealing with information overload. One of the ways that the Information Wiz did was to design a taxonomy covering all the information resources within the organisation and having a system to enhance and galvanize usage. A simple one was found in the market. This system proved to be quite easy to deploy and implement and use. this was Microsoft Office SharePoint Server
The company made great business the year that followed as the client and business partners found doing business with it very easy since they had all the information they required and customer information was seen to be secure.
Jacob was to retire after two years but with the coming in of the new system of doing things, he decided to learn more about the NEW way of handling information and teach others too.
Today, Jacob owns an Information/ Records Management Consultancy that helps other organisations to bring life to their information.
Jacob’s company is a hypothetical case picked so as to explain the process that most organisations go through in establishing viable records management program. Does your organisation have one?
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