Records – why aren’t we recording the future?

I’ve been chewing on a series of posts for about a week now and I just can’t quite nail the full thought process behind them.

I have a belief that records achieves real value through a specific sequence:

  1. Record (past tense).
  2. Record in real time and drive action.
  3. Take the real time recordings and make them predictive.

Records should be catalytic.

What I mean by that is that having a record should prompt action of some kind.

The basis of this is that if it’s important, it’s a record. 

Data, information – who cares. 

Records are important.

So recording information entering an organisation, should prompt action – or else why would we bother recording it?

The shorter the window between receiving and recording – the faster the action that’s possible.

So we need to record first, and record in systems that allow the orchestration of a lot of actions. 

This is the essence of the move from Recording (past tense) to recording in real time – it’s the move from people doing things and then recording them, to people recording things so that action is then driven at scale by a system.

Simple example – a biosecurity officer who gets a notification of a bio-hazard will coordinate a group of people to perform actions – then record what happens. 

A system that records the notification in real time can drive the actions automatically, and at scale. When we do this, we remove the delay of waiting for a human to do things in serial, and we put them in a system that can do them in parallel.

I think once we reach that, the only logical step is to predict the future.

Because at this point, we know what people do with the information that comes into our organisation.

We know what the volume is.

We know who it goes to.

We should be able to harvest that information, and use it to predict capacity for the future, to analyse trends and stop problems before they happen.

Where I’m stuck, is in working out whether this is something that records SHOULD do. I feel like we’re treading dangerously close to IS/Analytics and Operations territory here. 

Should Records be advancing this area?

I’m not sure.

What I’m also not sure though, is who else is going to do it. So it’s an opportunity.

On structured data, there’s already lots of work in progress. 

In some ways, that represents a loss for records – because it’s work that could have become part of records and contributed to the value perception of records in the organisation.

On unstructured or semi-structured information, records are still the holders of the information, and very few organisations seem to be doing the work to harvest value back from it. So we could – and add another source of value to our kit bag.

But should we?

1 thought on “Records – why aren’t we recording the future?”

  1. Hi Karl, I always enjoy hearing about the thoughts you are chewing on 🙂 Here are 2 brief reflections on the post above, which I’m sure we’ll discuss in more depth soon. I believe the key is to come back to basics, to some simple fundamentals of recordkeeping theory and definitions.

    Firstly, the ISO standard defines records as [content] that is created or received – and maintained *as evidence or information* by an organisation or person… This speaks to your thought on record past/future. We ‘record’ things: to provide proof or memory about things that happened in the past (evidence); and to help us make decisions about things in the future (information). These things don’t necessarily happen sequentially. They can happen in any order or concurrently. This is the concept of the records continuum.

    Secondly, the concept of ‘by-design’ approaches to recordkeeping and records systems – again linked to the continuum and the understanding that recordkeeping requirements are intrinsically linked to/driven by a process. The process determined whether, and when a record is required to be created or captured; who can or should have access to it and at what point in the process they need it; how long it should be retained to provide evidence of who did what and why or to provide information for a future/related process.

    These things have been part of recordkeeping theory for many decades but have been slow to make it into recordkeeping practice. There’s probably been a skills gap in our profession, which aligned professions have tried to fill – because there are real and pressing business needs for recordkeeping knowledge in the information/digital age. We’ve also lacked the ability to articulate our value – an area where I believe we continue to struggle.

    Where I see light and opportunity ahead are in the new graduates coming into the profession, and aligned professionals who have spent a lot of time in the records space. I think both these groups are doing great work in translating longstanding theory into practices for modern times and digital environments.

    Okay, maybe that was not so brief, after all… 🙂


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