e-Records 2019: Records Alchemy – Transforming Records to Meet Impossible Expectations

by Erica Rice

We started off our first breakout session of the day with a bang, as Ryan Ellis of DataBank IMX presented Records Alchemy – Transforming Records to Meet Impossible Expectations.  No heavy metal elements or bubbling potions here – just a good, non-technical look at how to dynamize the data in your records.

Mr. Ellis took us through a brief tour of history, discussing the various paradigm shifts that have occurred in the records management universe over the years. From the French Revolution in the late 18th century, to the establishment of NARA in 1934, to the data privacy laws that started appearing in 2018 – we’ve moved from public access to privacy to data-driven retention as the main focus of RIM practitioners. So what’s next? What will be the hegemony that drives future records managers?

Ryan Ellis illustrating how records management expectations change over time.

We got to see one possibility! Mr. Ellis gave us a demo of the enterprise content management system (ECMs) utilized by a fictional state agency of the future: IMARS (Interplanetary Movements and Relocation Service). In this demo, we could see how this agency uses forward-thinking data classification and a scalable taxonomy to prioritize the findability of records. In this hypothetical future, we are concerned not so much with where to store data, but how to find it when we need it – especially when it’s stored across multiple repositories and tapped into from multiple access points (potentially throughout the solar system).

But your local government or state agency is not opening up a branch on Mars any time soon. So how can you use this knowledge now?

  • Take a look at your data taxonomy – your metadata. Are you classifying records based on how they will be accessed? You may be missing crucial access points. Take a look at the functions that your records support.
  • Utilize electronic content management systems to their fullest capability – enable auto-classification and ditch manual data entry! This can be template-based, or it can rely on supervised or unsupervised learning (i.e. artificial intelligence). There are ECMs that can be taught to recognize your invoice templates or your unique identifier patterns by sight.
Your brain can auto-classify a movie as a sci-fi or a rom-com just by looking at the movie poster. An ECM system can do the same with your records.

While the future is unknown, records managers have a responsibility to think about how their constituents might be using their government’s long-term and permanent records in the future.

Take a minute to peruse the presentation slides for more helpful charts and visual aids on this exciting topic. Perhaps this will light the flame for your own alchemical romance – start turning data-lake lead into information gold. As Mr. Ellis pointed out…

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Arthur C. Clarke

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