Where should information management live in the organization?
I returned to downtown Washington, DC, last week to teach the AIIM Foundations of Intelligent Information Management (FIIM) course. The class started with some icebreaker exercises, including asking the students to define, in their own words, “What is information management?” There were some fantastic definitions generated from the students for this and other discussion questions throughout the course. However, there was one question that kept coming up over and over again during the course, "Where should information management live in the organization?"
That is to say, where should the information management/records management/information governance job function be located within an organizational structure? I thought this was an interesting topic, and I’d like to share some of the thoughts and feedback from the class.
Information Governance “Island”
The question initially came up in the context of information governance, so we started there; but we’ve really only recognized IG as a separate, formal function for the last 15 years (or thereabouts), so I don’t know that there is a good answer yet. However, organizations have made the case that there should be a chief information governance officer or CIGO, that should report directly to senior management. (IG Initiative and Gartner from 2003)
Information Management “Umbrella”
I don’t think most organizations have a dedicated information management function per se – rather, information management serves as an umbrella term for all of the different disciplines used to manage information: records management, content management, privacy and data protection, scanning, etc. This means that different disciplines may report to different areas of the organization: content management to marketing, scanning to the mailroom, and so forth.
Records Management “It depends...”
When the discussion focused specifically on records management, we had as many answers as we had students in the room. Just like snowflakes, no two answers were the same. In one organization, records management reported to legal. In another, it was part of the administration. In a third, it was part of finance and reported directly to the chief financial officer.
What little consensus there was pointed to records management being part of the IT function, or at least that IT and records management should be part of the same group. Given the continuing explosion in the rate of growth of digital information, this seems like a really good fit for a number of reasons:
- IT is responsible for procuring, operating, managing, and ultimately disposing of the systems used to create and manage records and information; records managers need to understand those systems’ lifecycles and how they store information
- IT can provide detailed technical information about a particular type of information including how it was created, how it has been managed, its format, etc., all of which is needed by records managers to support effective management of that information
- IT often has the budget and the ear of senior management, at least more so than records management generally does
- Digital transformation is at the top of mind in many organizations, and while this is not necessarily driven through IT, IT often has a significant role to play in these initiatives
- In the age of intelligent information management, the overwhelming majority of information is either born-digital or is digitized as soon as possible; IT can support this process, but records managers need to be involved to ensure that that information is created, captured, and managed in a way that supports business outcomes while minimizing risk.
In the end, there really isn’t a “best practice” for where the various information management processes and disciplines should report to in the organization. The answer depends significantly on the organization's culture, its levels of maturity in the different disciplines, and a host of other factors. What is important is that they report to areas of the organization that understand the value they bring and will support them with the resources they need. And it’s critical that information management professionals in these processes build solid relationships with IT, other support functions, and the business so that they can effectively support business outcomes.