The most important executive perception problem for Records.

Is that Records is a cost.

The question every executive wants to have with Records is how they can give us $1, and get $1.50 back. 

At the moment, the conversation is “give us $1 and you’ll get some compliance”.

For another $1 – you can get some more compliance.

….but if you were compliant before, how can you be more compliant?

And if you weren’t compliant before, and nothing exploded, why shouldn’t they continue spending with areas of the organisation that are giving them $1.50 back every time they ask for $1 – areas that are carrying records.

If records is about compliance, then it’s an investment that only pays off if there’s a compliance failure, and a compliance failure is only likely to be picked up if there’s an audit, or if there’s an incident, or if we get sued.

If, if, if, if, if – it’s all pretty uncertain. Which is hard, when IT are proposing a project with a hard cost saving of 20%.

If records becomes investment grade though, the conversation changes.

When an organisation can get $1.50 back for every $1 they spend in records, all they want to know is “how much do you want?”

And when this is the executive conversation in records, everything else becomes possible. We can ask ourselves questions like “how much more do we want to retain permanently because it might be of historical value”.

So how to start?

Our conversations do need to change.

If we go to team leaders and keep talking about “put it in the system” – we will fail because that’s an investment of time without a return – they’re going to give us an hour, and get nothing back.

This bit is simple – don’t boil the ocean. We don’t need to immediately justify every dollar of records spend. All we need to make sure of is that the next couple of records projects have a business case behind them that generates a return. 

It has to be said too, that “return” is always a tricky conversation in government agencies. There is the expectation that heads will be nominated to roll when an investment is made. I think though, that this makes it easier for us – we don’t have to propose disruption, we don’t have to propose transformation – we just have to propose slightly better. It actually means that continuous improvement is where we should work – the only trick then is tracking it so the total impact of what we’ve done doesn’t get lost.

We’ve got a problem in records. It’s that we’re not considered investment grade. Until we are, we’re going to keep getting underfunded, keep getting passed over for “data” projects and keep being ignored in favour of the latest shiny toy. When executives know they can come to us with $1 and get $1.50 back though – there won’t be anything in the world that stops them from giving it to us.

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