Within an organization or government office, who determines the ownership of records and when the records can change ownership?
Senior Records Management Advisor
Executive Office of the President
Generally, in MY experience, the determination of record (or record series) ownership is done either by the records/IM/IG manager or director (or whatever the most senior level is), or by an officer of the organization. In some cases it may be driven by an external compliance requirement. Usually the IG rules under which a record can change ownership are from those same authorities.
The office of professional responsibility for the content of a particular records group is the logical starting point. If a portfolio item moves from one place in the organization to another, it makes sense that the data/information associated with that item moves too. This may be semantics in a digital age, but I’d also add that the gaining office and the one transferring records away should work with the records officer to update their file plans.
Reorganizations within government agencies are significant events in and of themselves and the record artifacts which describe the purpose and the nature of the reorganization should be captured. Someone will always ask “why did we do this?” at some point down the road. Without these records, organizations can fall into the low-value activity of “reorganizing the deck chairs on the Titanic” as a cheap means of improvement. This is an example of when a well-curated, searchable corporate memory/archive can drive efficiency. In the end, my goal is to support an organization so that as its senior leaders change, agency action remains historically consistent, and that the research behind corporate decisions, generally performed by lower-level knowledge workers, is academically rigorous.
Above all, if the people who need the information in those records can’t find them when they need them, the organization will move away from data-driven decision making toward more emotion-based decision making, And the decision making cycle will slow down. Keeping the compliance activity aligned under agency mission accomplishment will help make the ownership decision because after all, the mission is what it’s all about. Compliance will come along for the ride.
Mark Patrick, CIP, CDR USN (Ret.)
Immediate Past Chair, Board of Directors
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