It would seem lately that some professions have fallen prey to the rapid advancement of modern technology. Phone operators and receptionists are slowly being replaced by automated telephone operators, the salesman is being replaced by online shopping and according to Marketwatch almost 85% of all transactions done at the bank teller can be done at the ATM, even more via online banking technology. The list of jobs being replaced by technology is a long one. So have record managers become victim to this fairly recent rise in technology? The answer to this shall be discussed in this article.
What is a Records Manager?
First, before we delve into the effect technology has had on the records manager profession, let us look at defining what it is exactly that a records manager does. Records managers are mainly responsible for the efficient and effective management of an organization’s records from creation to archival or ultimate disposal. They are tasked with providing accurate records for a range of operational and strategic purposes, retrieval of records for any given time period and ensuring the preservation of an organization’s records for the future.
Records managers also ensure that legal requirements are met for the creation, retention, and disposal of documents and files thereby maintaining compliance with a variety of statutory document and records management regulations. This includes monitoring and controlling the amount of records originated and stored, and appropriately identifying which records are to be preserved and which should be disposed of.
The field of records management includes a variety of tasks and activities and may involve other information-related activities such as information management, data protection, information governance, etc. Some of the most common duties of the records manager includes, but are not limited to:
- Storing, organizing, indexing, and classifying records;
- Being involved in the development of an organization’s filing systems and ensuring that they conform to government legislation and regulations;
- Overseeing the management of a company’s information;
- Developing policies to guide staff in the management of their individual records and how to use the employer’s records system;
- Enabling appropriate access to information to the relevant persons;
- Preserving corporate records and information for future use;
- Training staff on the appropriate use of the employer’s records management system; and
- Responding to internal and external information queries.
Records managers have a very important role to play in an organization’s day-to-day operations; however, we shall see that most of the responsibilities of the managers can be performed automatically with modern technology, namely document management systems (or DMS).
Will Document Management Systems Replace Records Managers?
Document management systems are primarily software used to actively monitor and control the lifecycle of files and documents within an organization. It manages how the files and documents are created, reviewed, published, and eventually archived or disposed. In addition, a DMS allows for the ease of collaboration of information sharing between users in virtual teams. You may be realizing by now that this sounds very familiar, as there is an obvious overlap in the responsibilities of the records manager and the capabilities of document management software.
DMS’s inherently provide functionality to automatically perform tasks that would otherwise be performed by the records manager. This includes storing and managing records, ensuring compliance with government legislation and regulations, ensuring appropriate file access to relevant personnel, ensuring proper archival of files and scheduling of the archival process, and providing regular backups to ensure that records are well preserved in the event of an unforeseen circumstance.
As more and more companies recognize the benefits of a paperless office, the records manager position is slowly becoming obsolete. Many organizations have embraced the power of electronic files and records, thus eliminating the need to have someone physically store, organize, and manage paper files in cumbersome space-consuming file cabinets. As mentioned in our previous articles, using a DMS to manage electronic files have the following benefits:
- Eliminates filing cabinets thereby freeing up office space resulting in significant cost savings;
- Improves employee efficiency and productivity as files are now easily searchable; and
- Reduces employee overheads as time wasted looking for files can be better spent being productive at the office.
As well as performing the duties of a records manager, document management systems such as eFileCabinet provide other additional functions that cannot be performed by human record managers including:
- Automated workflows;
- Cloud backup and storage;
- Zonal OCR scanning capabilities; and
- Role-based security.
So are records manager being replaced by these DMS’s? It may seem unfortunate that this profession is slowly becoming obsolete due to the rapid advancement of modern technology. Not only can document management systems perform almost all the tasks of a records manager, they can also perform them faster, automatically, with reduced errors, and with an overall reduced cost. This is compounded by the fact that as time goes on and technology advances, document management systems will continue to grow in their capabilities and may even put other information management professions at risk.