Genaro Lopez Is Making Function Fashionable

Genaro Lopez and his team at Nike help keep the iconic brand as sleek and efficient as any athlete

Genaro Lopez, Director of Enterprise Records and Information Management, Nike Photo by Cass Davis

Lightweight, sleek, efficient: For nearly fifty years, Nike’s innovative designs have helped athletes run faster, jump higher, and perform better. One of the biggest innovations happening at Nike right now, however, is one you won’t see on TV or on store shelves. 

Genaro Lopez, director of enterprise records and information management at Nike’s world headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, is working to make effective records management cool. This year, he and his team have launched a campaign to change the way the company thinks about what records they should keep and what they can delete or toss. It’s a campaign called Make the Cut, and it’s an effort unprecedented in scale for a challenge facing many large organizations today. And, as usual, Nike is ahead of the game.

“It’s all about how we are creating the future,” Lopez says. “I tell my team: ‘How are we changing the game? This is our opportunity to innovate in our space. We’re probably never going to be footwear designers or material scientists, but this is our opportunity to think creatively about the work we do for the company—to do things that have never been done around records management at Nike or at any company.’”

It just makes sense. How many emails do employees send in a day? How many contracts do they draft? How much marketing copy, how many prototypes, and how many versions are created every single day? Making records, to some companies, is just the cost of doing business. You don’t become the best in your game without leaving footprints.

Since the corporate world’s work moved from paper to digital, the number of documents in Nike’s—and many other companies’ for that matter—servers has exploded. By 2017, Nike had reached over nine petabyes of data across its many systems.

“We decided to make some interesting comparisons, translating the quantity of data we had in our servers to how many Olympic stadiums that data could fill or how many Nike shoeboxes you could fill with that data,” Lopez explains.

If you printed it all out, it would stack up higher than 380 million shoeboxes or fill ten Olympic stadiums. The energy it takes to store that data is enough to power 272 World Cup matches.

In the age of seemingly limitless cloud storage and simple back-up for peace of mind, it’s become easy to keep everything. However, any librarian, museum curator, or editor will tell you: when you keep everything, each piece has a little less meaning. It’s the selection, deciding what not to keep, that makes things important. Plus, large corporations like Nike have legal and regulatory obligations to retain business records that can carry severe penalties if not followed.

Photo by Cass Davis

To take on the task of culling this data, Lopez assembled the finest resources the athletics giant had at its disposal. He and his team created intuitively designed tools and worked with an external design agency to create effective, visually striking messaging. For Lopez and his team, though, making sure only the most important records are kept is a team effort on a global scale. Getting that message across required arresting visuals of those shoeboxes, stadiums, and World Cup matches to make an abstract problem more concrete.

In a series of stunningly designed graphics on computer lock screens, posters, and physical installations, Lopez’s team rolled out a global campaign in ten languages to raise awareness of the issue. It’s a campaign on par with anything Nike would use to promote its newest gear. At a company this expansive and with so many internal campaigns, it has to be in order to stand out.

Establishing awareness of the scope of the problem, however, was only the beginning. There needs to be something for people to do with their newfound awareness of the issue. So, Lopez found that it was equally important to offer an easy way to take action.

“We all own the problem, and we all own the solution,” Lopez says. “We not only need to get people excited, but we also need to make it easy to do the right thing.”

Having previously developed intuitive tools to make creating contracts easier for Nike employees, Lopez has a mind for user experience. His priority is to meet users at their level to get the best results. So, he streamlined the records-compliance process by cutting through the exhaustive task of finding and deciphering regulations and policies. To Lopez, finding out what records to keep and how long to keep them should be straightforward. Gone are the days of scrolling through a manual or using the “find” function to track down a jargon-filled rule on records compliance, all of which reduced the likelihood that anyone would actually be successful finding and following the official guidance.

“We’re really sensitive to what is a realistic expectation to ask of people who are not experts in this field,” Lopez says. “We don’t assume prior knowledge in the design of our tools. We want to shorten the gap between someone wanting to do the right thing and having the answers they need to do it.”

Thanks to Lopez and his team, employees now only need to enter their name, the country they work in, and the type of record they have, whether it’s a finance spreadsheet, a vendor contract, or even a prototype for next year’s hottest sneaker. From those quick and easy three answers, employees can instantly be told exactly how long they need to keep their record and where to go for help if they still have questions.

After nearly a year of planning, that campaign has gained enthusiastic support from a company of 74,000 people spread across 190 countries. In fact, in the wake of this campaign, Nike’s European logistics team was able to identify half a million documents that no longer needed to be kept but were nevertheless occupying valuable warehouse space.

It’s a remarkable level of visibility for a corporate records management function, especially at Nike. The new Make the Cut website received more visitors in the first two hours of its launch than the previous records management site received in the entire previous year. Lopez’s enthusiasm is clear but measured.

“It’s been successful, but we’re in mile one of a marathon,” Lopez says. “We’ll know we’ve reached a milestone when it’s become a part of the culture.”

In that mission, Lopez means to make sustainable and effective records management as natural to Nike as the fast-paced energy that already drives the company.

“Our culture is one of our most valuable assets. ‘Just Do It’ is not just a marketing tag,” Lopez says. “It’s how our work gets done. With our new, all-connected world and Nike’s unique culture, we will ultimately only be successful with the buy-in of the whole company. This is not just a one-time sales pitch to the organization. If only the legal department takes it to heart, we’re not going to get it done. We’re continuing to highlight teams across the entire global enterprise that are doing great work to help on our internal platforms.”

Many organizations talk about the power of their company culture and the need for buy-in, but in this case, cultural change and personal ownership can be measured by the petabyte, the Olympic stadium, or the shoebox.

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