Records and information managers (RIMs) are central to an organization’s information management strategy. They are responsible for knowing what information exists, who has or has had access to it, where it is now, how safe it is and when it’s time to let it go. Without these activities, organizations would be hard pressed to drive real business value from their information.

But the world around RIMs is rapidly changing, and their role and influence most evolve to keep pace. Today, information exists in multiple formats, most of them digital. As a consequence, responsibility for the management of digital information is often given to those in IT. This approach widens the divide between RIMs, the information they strive to protect and their place as a critical cog in the enterprise information management machine.

A recent study[i] by Iron Mountain explored what this rapidly evolving information landscape could mean for RIMs and what skills RIMs need to meet the demands that lie ahead. The results reveal a profession that is going through significant and irreversible change; one that could be at risk of being marginalised if action is not taken.

The study found that nearly half (48 percent) of U.S. RIMs say their role and responsibilities have changed significantly over the last five years. When it comes to the future, RIMs and their business leaders both agree on the key trends and skills priorities, but also acknowledge that there is currently a skills shortfall in some of the most important areas.

The study asked RIMs and their business leaders to identify the single most critical skillset that RIMs can offer the organisation over the coming years. The results show that the need to extract greater benefit from information outranks process and technology-based skills.

Interestingly enough, business leaders in the U.S. not only expect their RIMs to be experts at the technical aspects of their jobs – including mastering security and compliance requirements and accessing information quickly – but they also identified soft skills like effective communication and understanding business objectives as critical skills for RIMs to add to their resume.

The ability to add value to information through insight and analysis was selected as the single most important skillset for RIMs of the future (25 percent of U.S. RIMs selected this attribute along with 37 percent of their employers).

After that, however, a disconnect emerges. Business leaders, for instance, rank a strategic outlook and awareness of business goals next (23 percent of respondents), followed by effective, cross-functional communication skills (13 percent). All soft skills.

RIMs, on the other hand, selected compliance and security skills as their second most important skill for the future (21 percent), with a strong understanding of digital transformation in third (17 percent. Both represent technical skills.

So how can today’s RIMs gain the intangible attributes desired by business leaders?

“Information resides at the intersection of people, technology and contexts. Successful information management programs create technical infrastructures that recognize and serve the goals of the people and organizations in which they reside. The knowledge to do so combines social and technical perspectives, and represents a new kind of skills-set that draws from different disciplines,” said Andrew Dillon, dean of the University of Texas School of Information. “

In order to understand the importance of context and the need to engage with people, information professionals can follow the below tips to implement real solutions.

RIMs: Future-Proof Your Careers

  1. Have a solid grasp on the top business objectives of your organization. If you don’t know, ask.
  2. Know how your role can add value to your organization and help achieve those top objectives.
  3. Maintain an open line of communication with your department and other key stakeholders including IT, the CIO’s office and legal.
  4. Always add insight and analysis when retrieving information. Tailor this to your audience’s key business goals.
  5. Bring key contributions to the attention of senior management and colleagues.
  6. Maintain a well-organized and efficient records management program so information can be easily and quickly retrieved when needed.

Business leaders have a role to play too: they need to rediscover their RIMs, support their development and foster a culture across the organization where the role and contribution of records and information managers is better understood and more highly valued. 
Iron Mountain and AIIM: The Global Community of Information Professionals are looking for your thoughts on what it takes to become a next-generation information professional. Share your feedback with this survey

Sue Trombley is managing director of thought leadership at Iron Mountain.

[i]Coleman Parkes for Iron Mountain. Coleman Parkes surveyed business decision makers and records and information managers at 900 organisations with between 250 and 999 employees, within the healthcare, public sector, retail, legal, financial services/insurance, pharmaceutical, manufacturing and energy sectors, in the UK, France, Spain, the Netherlands and Germany and in the US.  Research was undertaken online in January/February 2015.

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