Meet Users Where They Live: A Fundamental Rule for Information Management

By Alyssa Blackburn

For a long time, the trend in Records and Information Management was to store records in a separate system, more commonly known as an electronic document and records management system, or eDRMS. Some Records and Information Managers went a step further and encouraged users to make the eDRMS their central place of work.

Others used the records management system as the ‘resting place’ for content when it was final, expecting users to ‘send’ their content to the system when it was ready to be treated as a record.

While popular with records managers, these approaches were almost universally despised by users. It’s no surprise that being asked to use systems that were primarily designed for records managers or to add additional steps to existing business processes resulted in users finding ways to bypass official systems and processes.

Thankfully this trend is evolving, accelerated by the rapid pace at which organizations globally are adopting collaboration platforms such as Microsoft 365. Since users are the content creators, it is vitally important to wrap records and information management processes around them, their working environments, and business processes.

So how can we approach records and information management to meet users where they are? We must follow the ‘rule of complexity,’ whose fundamental principle is this: The closer you get to the user, the less complex things should be.

A disposition authority or retention and disposal schedule can often be quite intricate. However, since this framework is largely hidden from the user, we can build more complexity into the rules that govern the lifecycle of content.

File plans, taxonomies, and other metadata structures that are used to link to lifecycle outcomes may have some impact on users, either through a view or required metadata entries and updates.

As these items are closer to the user, we must make sure to provide a low-friction experience - aligning with business processes, scaling down the complexity, and avoiding adding additional burden, wherever possible.

The information architecture (or structure) of the platform the user works in is front and centre to their experience. Since this is where the user performs their day-to-day activities and spends most of their time, this is where we want the least complexity and the most alignment to how the user wants to work.

The information structure that the users work within doesn’t need to follow a records management structure, but rather should be a supporting layer that is largely invisible to them.

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If you take only one thing away from this, just remember “the closer you get to the user, the less complex things should be.” This guiding principle will be the key to successfully tailoring records and information management processes to your users’ digital “homes.”

The world of information management is evolving rapidly and the way records and information managers have approached it in the past doesn’t necessarily suit modern collaboration platforms.

AvePoint’s information management solution, Cloud Records, redefines records management and allows records managers to meet the user where they live, maximizing adoption and driving successful outcomes for users and organizations alike.

Alyssa Blackburn is the Director of Information and Records Strategy at AvePoint. This article first appeared in AIIM’s “Meet Users Where They Live: Optimize M365 for Controlled Content Services.”