Minimizing risk with a sound Records Management strategy

[show_avatar align=left avatar_size=30]When I was first asked to write for EMC Energy, it didn’t take me too long to figure out what I wanted to author. Of all the topics related to enterprise content management (ECM), the first thing that came to mind was what seems to be a hot topic these days in the energy sector: records management.

Due in part to recent catastrophic events, the Energy sector, Oil & Gas and Utilities, is facing unprecedented scrutiny and a major increases in the scope and number of regulations in the Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) areas.  These new regulations will affect how companies manage the content across their entire value chain. An additional complexity that Energy companies must deal with is that some of these EHS regulations were originally created based on physical or paper records, but now we are dealing with the management or governance of electronic information. And it’s not just certifications or regulations, but standards and acts, it’s all about managing the information from creation to disposal – who has access, how are they accessing it, what are they doing with it and how are we ensuring that we keep it for only the required amount of time.

One particular area of major risk for Energy companies is in the area of Records Management. This has been reinforced by many of our Energy customers during our Advisory Council meetings. So let’s start at a very basic level. What is Records Management? It is the practice of maintaining the records of an Energy organization from the time they are created up to their eventual disposal. This may include classifying, storing, securing, and destruction and in some cases, archival preservation of selected records. In the past, ‘records management’ was sometimes used to refer only to the management of records which were no longer in everyday use but still needed to be kept. Today’s definition refers to the entire ‘lifecycle’ of records – from the point of creation right through their eventual disposal.

There are three major shifts we see in Records Management in the areas of quantity, type and dispersion.

  • The first shift is around the exponential increase in the quantity of records that must be managed along the entire Energy value chain. The quantity increase is a result of a more stringent regulatory environment coupled with requirements for more complex and secure content centric processes to protect critical Energy assets. Another aspect is that many companies have embarked on paper-to-electronic imaging projects resulting in a significant increase in electronic content and records.
  • The second shift is around the complexity in the types of both content and records that must be managed. Instead of just worrying about the traditional Energy content and records, like maintenance reports,  SOPs, engineering drawing, operating permits, etc., Energy companies now must also devise record management processes to also manage more complex record types like video and audio files, 3D models, hybrid drawings, instant messages, etc.
  • The third shift is around dispersion and it concerns the requirement for a more global approach to manage Energy records. Projects now require significant collaboration and exchange of content both inside and outside the firewall, and in some instances involve multiple geographic locations – with their own set of regulations – with a multitude of vendors and suppliers. A sound records management strategy needs to take this content dispersion into account.

EMC has developed a Top 10 list that outlines the significant records management related issues facing Energy companies today. I’m curious, are you addressing these same challenges? Do you have other records management related issues?

About the Author: Gonzalo Merchan